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Diagnosing Renal Failure: Renal Failure Ultrasound Characteristics

written by: DulceCorazon • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 7/26/2010

Renal failure is generally a devastating disease. It can however be diagnosed early, and given prompt management. Find out the renal failure ultrasound characteristics that are usually seen.

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    Renal Failure whether acute or chronic can strike anyone, at any age, at any time. It affects hundreds of million of people worldwide each year. Fortunately, because of improved understanding of the causes and course of renal failure, mortality has gone down from 90% to 50% in the recent years.

    To help the incidence go down even further, there are several initiatives that recommend for the early detection and prompt aggressive treatment of renal failure. This can be accomplished by having a thorough and accurate assessment through various diagnostic techniques in order to identify the individual’s risk and possible disease progression. Renal ultrasound is one very useful tool in assessing the overall damage of the kidneys. Doctors can often identify renal failure ultrasound characteristics which are commonly seen in patients with kidney problems.

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    Overview of Renal Ultrasound

    Renal ultrasound is a diagnostic test performed to assist in the diagnosis of kidney problems. Most abnormalities in the kidneys can be identified by the changes in the structure, size, or position of either or both kidneys. This procedure can be performed in combination with other urologic test such as a radionuclide scan. Renal ultrasound is especially valuable in clients with renal failure and in those with hypersensitivity to iodine based contrast media.

    In renal ultrasound, a transducer transmits high frequency sound waves through the kidneys and its perirenal structures. This results in echoes which are amplified and converted into electrical impulses that are displayed on a screen as anatomic changes. In diagnosing renal failure, several renal failure ultrasound characteristics can be seen such as structural changes, fluid accumulation, and possible transplant complications.

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    Structural Changes

    Cysts, tumors, and abscess are present in about eight to 13% of individuals who have acute or chronic renal failure.

    Ultrasound shows cysts as fluid-filled and circular structures that don’t reflect sound waves while tumors produce multiple echoes and appear as irregular shapes. Abscesses with boundaries which are slightly more irregular than those of cysts also poorly echo sound waves. Some perirenal abscess may displace the kidney towards the front. Renal damage in renal failure can be seen as irregularly shaped renal capsules, atrophied or shrunken kidneys, and exaggerated echoes arising from fibrotic tissues. Some congenital anomalies such as horseshoe, ectopic, and duplicated kidneys, which can eventually lead to renal failure can also be detected. Hypertrophic kidneys resulting from renal failure may be identified as well.

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    Fluid Accumulation

    Renal ultrasound identifies abnormal accumulations of fluid within or around the kidneys. Hydronephrosis, which is an accumulation of fluid in the kidney, may show a large echo-free, central mass that compresses the renal cortex. Renal calyx echoes are usually diffused and the renal pelvis significantly enlarged.

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    Transplant Complications

    Many chronic renal failure patients opt for kidney transplants and some may develop complications. Ultrasound accurately differentiates normal post-transplant compensatory enlargement from abnormal prolonged hypertrophy indicating transplant rejection.

    Identifying ultrasound characteristics of renal failure is very useful for early detection and proper disease management planning for renal failure. Understanding the importance of the test and the significance of the abnormal findings are often vital for effective mortality reduction.

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    emedicinehealth: Chronic Kidney Disease

    Ultrasound Guide For Emergency Physicians: Renal Ultrasound