Acute Kidney Injury

What is acute kidney injury?

Acute kidney injury, also called acute kidney failure, happens when your kidneys suddenly stop working correctly. Normally, the kidneys remove fluid, chemicals, and waste from your blood. These wastes are turned into urine by your kidneys. In acute kidney injury, your kidneys can no longer do this. In most cases, it is temporary, but it may become a chronic kidney condition.


What increases my risk for acute kidney injury?

  • Severe illness, infection, or sepsis (severe infection)

  • History of kidney injury, infection, stones, or other kidney disease

  • Medicines such as diuretics, antibiotics, or NSAIDs

  • Exposure to chemicals, such as illegal drugs or contrast dye

  • Severe bleeding from surgery or injury

  • Dehydration caused by burns, vomiting, or diarrhea

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune disease, or liver problems

What are the signs and symptoms of acute kidney injury?

  • Decreased urination or dark-colored urine

  • Swelling in your arms, legs, or feet

  • Abdominal or low back pain

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Skin rash

How is acute kidney injury diagnosed?

  • Blood and urine tests show how well your kidneys are working. They may also show the cause of your acute kidney injury.

  • An x-ray or ultrasound may show the cause of your acute kidney injury. You may be given contrast dye to help your kidneys show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is acute kidney injury treated?

Treatment depends upon the cause of your acute kidney injury and how severe it is. You may need the following:

  • Medicines increase blood flow to your kidneys and protect your kidneys. You may also need medicine to decrease inflammation in your kidneys.

  • IV fluids are given to replenish fluids and help your heart pump blood.

  • Dialysis is a treatment to remove chemicals and waste from your blood when your kidneys cannot.

Do I need to change what I eat and drink?

Your healthcare provider may tell you to eat food low in sodium (salt), potassium, phosphorus, or protein. You may need to see a dietitian if you need help planning meals.

How can I prevent acute kidney injury?

  • Manage other health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. These conditions increase your risk for acute kidney injury.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider before you take over-the-counter-medicine. NSAIDs, stomach medicine, or laxatives may harm your kidneys and increase your risk for acute kidney injury.

  • Tell healthcare providers you have had acute kidney injury before you get contrast dye for an x-ray or CT scan. Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to prevent kidney problems caused by the dye.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You urinate less than you normally do.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have abdominal or low back pain.

  • Your skin is itchy or you have a rash.

  • You have nausea, vomit repeatedly, or have severe diarrhea.

  • You have fatigue or muscle weakness.

  • You have hiccups that will not stop.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your heart is beating faster than normal for you.

  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.

  • You have a seizure.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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