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Acute kidney failure is the rapid (less than 2 days) loss of your kidneys' ability to remove waste and

balance fluids and electrolytes in your body.

There are many possible causes of kidney damage. They include:

Acute tubular necrosis (ATN)

Autoimmune kidney disease

Blood clot from cholesterol (cholesterol emboli)

Decreased blood flow due to very low blood pressure, which can
result from burns, dehydration, hemorrhage, injury, septic shock, serious
illness, or surgery
Disorders that cause clotting within the kidney blood vessels
Infections that directly injure the kidney, such as acute
pyelonephritis or septicemia
Pregnancy complications, including placenta abruption or placenta
Urinary tract blockage

Symptoms of acute kidney failure may include any of the following:

Bloody stools

Breath odor and metallic taste in the mouth

Bruising easily

Changes in mental status or mood

Decreased appetite

Decreased sensation, especially in the hands or feet

Flank pain (between the ribs and hips)
Hand tremor
High blood pressure

Nausea or vomiting, may last for days


Persistent hiccups

Prolonged bleeding


Shortness of breath

Slow, sluggish movements

Swelling due to the body keeping in fluid (may be seen in the legs,
ankles, and feet)
Urination changes, such as little or no urine, excessive urination at
night, or urination that stops completely

Exams and Tests

The doctor or nurse will examine you. Many patients with kidney disease
have body swelling caused by fluid retention. The doctor may hear a heart
murmur, crackles in the lungs, or other abnormal sounds when listening to
the heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
The results of laboratory tests may change suddenly (within a few days to
2 weeks). Such tests may include:

Creatinine clearance
Serum creatinine
Serum potassium
A kidney or abdominal ultrasound is the preferred test for diagnosing a
blockage in the urinary tract. X-ray, CT scan, or MRI of the abdomen can
also tell if there is a blockage.
Blood tests may help reveal the underlying cause of kidney failure. Arterial
blood gas and blood chemistries may show metabolic acidosis.

Once the cause is found, the goal of treatment is to help your kidneys
work again and prevent fluid and waste from building up in your body
while they heal. Usually, you will have to stay overnight in the hospital for
The amount of liquid you drink will be limited to the amount of urine you
can produce. You will be told what you may and may not eat to reduce the
buildup of toxins that the kidneys would normally remove. Your diet may
need to be high in carbohydrates and low in protein, salt, and potassium.
You may need antibiotics to treat or prevent infection. Diuretics (water
pills) may be used to help remove fluid from your body.
Medicines will be given through a vein to help control your blood
potassium level.

You may need dialysis. This is a treatment that does what healthy kidneys
normally do -- rid the body of harmful wastes, extra salt, and water.
Dialysis can save your life if your potassium levels are dangerously high.
Dialysis will also be used if:

Your mental status changes

You stop urinating

You develop pericarditis

You retain too much fluid

You cannot remove nitrogen waste products from your body

Dialysis will most often be short term. In rare cases, the kidney damage is
so great that dialysis is needed permanently.