Munson Health
Acute Renal Failure

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by Vann M

(Kidney Failure)



Acute renal failure is the sudden loss of kidney function. Kidneys clean waste from the blood and manage the balance of fluid in the body.
Anatomy of the Kidney
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


There are many possible causes of sudden kidney failure because there are three anatomical sites for problems to occur in the renal system: before the blood enters the kidneys, within the kidneys, and after the urine is processed by the kidneys and enters the ureters.
The most common cause of sudden kidney failure occurs inside the kidney. Acute tubular necrosis is the death of the cells inside the kidney that act as the blood's filter. These cells die when they are deprived of oxygen. This can be due to surgical complications, inflammatory processes, blood clots, or the side effects of certain medicines. Physical problems, such as swollen prostate glands or kidney stones can also cause sudden kidney failure.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of developing acute renal failure include:
  • Having a chronic disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, or high blood pressure
  • Increased age
  • Dehydration
  • Bleeding, especially from the gastrointestinal tract
  • Certain medications and illegal drugs
  • Complications following surgeries or care in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • Overuse of certain over-the-counter painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and ketoprofen
  • Use of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Obstructive causes such as benign prostatic hypertrophy and bladder tumor


National Kidney Disease Education Program

National Kidney Foundation



The College of Family Physicians of Canada

The Kidney Foundation of Canada



Acute renal failure. DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 4, 2013. Accessed July 12, 2013.

Hilton R. Acute renal failure. BMJ. 2006;333:786-790.

Needham E. Management of acute renal failure. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72:1739-1746. Available at: Accessed July 13, 2013.

Rondon-Berrios H, Palevsky PM. Treatment of acute kidney injury: an update on the management of renal replacement therapy. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2007;16:64-70.

Venkataraman R, Kellum JA. Prevention of acute renal failure. Chest. 2007;131:300-308.


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