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Inside your kidneys are small tube-shaped structures that remove salt, excess fluids, and waste products from the blood. When these tubules are damaged or destroyed, you develop acute tubular necrosis (ATN). The damage may result in acute kidney failure.
The symptoms of ATN may vary depending on its severity. You may:
The most common cause of ATN is a lack of oxygen reaching the cells of the kidney. When blood cannot reach the tissues and cells of the kidneys due to a blockage or restriction, the kidneys can be damaged or destroyed. A heart attack, stroke, and long-standing diabetes can result in reduced blood flow to the kidneys causing cell death and ATN.
Harmful substances in the blood can also damage tubules. Toxins may change the way cells in the tubules function.
Certain chemicals and medications (such as antibiotics), anesthetics, and radiology dyes may cause ATN if your body reacts negatively to them.
A number of factors may place you at risk for ATN. The risk factors depend on your overall health and any other medical issues such as:
If your doctor suspects acute tubular necrosis, they may order specific diagnostic tests. These testing procedures include:
Your doctor may prescribe medication to decrease the fluid and waste buildup in your kidneys. You may also be told to restrict your diet to reduce the amount of sodium and potassium in your body. You may also need to regulate the amount of water you drink to avoid excessive fluid retention. Too much fluid can lead to abnormal swelling (edema) in your arms, legs, and feet. You may temporarily need dialysis to help your kidneys filter out excess fluids and wastes.
Your recovery time and long-term outlook will depend on many factors. Acute kidney failure can sometimes be reversible in people who are in otherwise good health.
The outlook is very good for people who don’t have any underlying health conditions, and who were able to start treatment in the early stages of the condition.
If your ATN was caused by another condition, your recovery depends on your overall health.
To avoid ATN, treat conditions that decrease oxygen and blood flow to the kidneys. Control existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disorders, and liver disease. Drink plenty of water after using any contrast dyes. Ask your doctor to monitor your blood if you take medications that may be toxic to the kidneys.
Written by: Brindles Lee Macon and Winnie Yu
Medically reviewed on: Jan 22, 2016: George Krucik, MD MBA
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