Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About your diagnosis

Acute renal failure is an abrupt decline in kidney function resulting in retention of nitrogenous end products of metabolism in the body. There are many causes of acute renal failure, including conditions that have a secondary effect on the kidneys (e.g., a drop in blood pressure that could occur from many causes), as well as an obstruction of the kidneys at any level. Direct injury to the kidney by certain drugs and radiographic dyes, for example, is the third major cause of acute renal failure. Conditions such as acute glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidney) can also cause acute renal failure. It is a serious illness.

Living With Your Diagnosis
You will most likely be admitted to the hospital with this diagnosis, or you may have acute renal failure develop as a complication of the original condition for which you were hospitalized. You may require treatment in an intensive care unit. You may find that your urine output is very low, although this is not always the case. You may be short of breath and cough because of extra fluid in your lungs. Your blood pressure may be high. You may even require supportive treatment with breathing machines and artificial kidney machines (Fig 1). Complete recovery of kidney function is possible and may sometimes take as long as 6 weeks.

Because the causes of acute renal failure are diverse, management depends on the underlying condition. The common thread of treatment involves giving medicines that may help increase the amount of urine you make, and putting you on the artificial kidney machine. You will have blood tests done very frequently (daily) to assess your response to treatment. Your doctor may ask you to reduce your intake of protein, salt, and potassium, and to take blood pressure pills and calcium supplements. You may be discharged home once you are stable on medicines and dialysis. This treatment would need to be continued until your kidneys improve or recover completely.

The DOs
• Do tell your doctor of any exposure you may have had to toxins such as chemicals or drugs.
• Do follow dietary advice because it is very important in preventing complications from your disease. You may have to eliminate fruit, chocolate, and nuts from your diet because these foods have high amounts of potassium in them. When your kidneys are not working, high potassium levels have to be prevented because they are dangerous for your heart.
• Do keep to the fluid restriction you have been advised because otherwise you could have fluid buildup in your lungs. This could be dangerous to your immediate health.
• Do let your doctor know of all the medication you are taking, such as over-the-counter medicines and herbal preparations.
• Do exercise within your capacity to do so.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t stop taking your medication before checking with your doctor.
• Don’t take over-the-counter medication unless you have checked with your doctor. Some of these medicines may not be safe with your kidney condition.
• Don’t take any herbal preparations that you may find at health food stores. Some of these preparations have been known to cause kidney disease.
• Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor any questions that may concern you about your disease or its treatment.

When to Call Your Doctor
Always call your doctor if you feel unwell. He may be able to assess whether you need to be seen right away or whether a change in medication is necessary.