Kidney Disease & Disorders Community
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Atrophic Kidney?

4 years ago I was rushed to the ER with severe abdominal pain in my left side. An ultrasound and an MRI were performed. The cause for the pain was never found, but the MRI did pick up that my left kidney is severely atrophic and barely functioning. I was referred to a urologist. The urologist performed a test where I was injected with dye and another MRI/X-ray was performed. He confirmed that my left kidney was indeed severely atrophic but that my right kidney was functioning well enough to make up for the lack of function in the left. He did not perform any other tests and wasn't able to pinpoint the cause. He suggested that it may be congenital, though I had never heard this from any of my other doctors growing up, even though I did suffer numerous bladder infections and wet the bed until my teenage years. He advised me "not to get into a car accident" but other than that had no other answers for me and asked me to return in one year. 4 years have gone by and with no insurance I have not been back. My question is this, could this just be something congenital and nothing to worry about, or is it important that I continue to seek a reason as to why my left kidney is so atrophic?
12 Responses
Avatar universal
hi im regina..10 years ago i had the some  thing happen to me..now 8 months i had a kidney transplant..go looking for a doctor because soon u get help is better..good luck to u
Avatar universal
Hi.  I have the same thing.  My right kidney is atrophic and does not function at all, but my left does the work of both.  In fact, it is slightly enlarged to make up for the difference, which is perfectly normal, according the the nephrologist.  I take an ace inhibitor (low dose) to help keep the kidney from having to work so hard.  I've had multiple doctors and specialists recommend the same.  I'm like you, though.  I'm not convinced that it's congenital, but that's what the doc assumes.  I aldo had lots of kidney infections as a child.  I am concerned because my bp is increasing now and continues to be high despite my low dose ace inhibitor.  I am concerned that there really was a cause for the atrophic right kidney, and what if the same thing is happening to my left causing my bp to go up?  I'm having a renal ultrasound and lab work done this week, but is that the right test?  My family doctor is the one who ordered the test.  Any updates or changes in your situation?  Any other information you can provide?  Thanks, and I hope all is well with you.
Avatar universal
hi, I was just informed last week that my niece has one underdeveloped kidney (severely) and one overdeveloped kidney. I understand that the underdeveloped kidney has more than likely caused the other kidney to work harder and thus the reason it is over developed. However, I was wondering what might cause this. She had some blood work done today and has another sonogram scheduled for Wednesday. We have no history in our family of kidney problems other than kidney stones (my two brothers get them), so I was wondering what may cause this type of issue. She has no symptoms and doesn't frequently have UTI's, they actually found it by chance (she went in for a sonogram for a mass in her stomach, but dissipated before the sono, mother figured she would have it done to just to be sure. Everything I look up is usually found at birth because there are other symptoms, she is 12 with no symptoms does anyone have any idea where I can look to learn more detail about this type of thing and what causes it. I am so worried I have to do something and  research is usually my thing. :)
Avatar universal
My left is atrophic and I am told it is because I had so many infections and made so many stones.  I am having a renal scan because I am now diabetic and they need to know more about this issue.  Good luck!
Avatar universal
Unfortunately, I had my renal scan last Friday and today was told my left kidney is not functioning.  I guess the severity and frequency of the infections have taken their toll. I will be having my left kidney removed as soon as they can arrange it.  It's scary because I have diabetes.  FOr now, I need to focus on the immediate problem. Getting thru this.
Avatar universal
i also have been told lately i have a significantly smaller kidney but docs have just left it at that i am worried as to wether i should leave it or ask doc to check this problem out further i didnt think it was serious but now i think i should find out more as i am diabetic & my dad had renal trouble to.
Avatar universal
Wow you just discribed me. Infections as child,bed wetting..except they found mine 6 years ago while looking at a bad gallbladder. They also sent me a urologist who did a couple of tests, said my left kidney was working enough that if something happened to the right i wouldnt have to go dialialis(sp?)  and I never seen him again. I was told by one doctor that over time it would stop working. I just starting seeing another urologist who had me do more testing to see how the kidney is working. Im curious on long term what will happen if does stop working, or if its going to cause problems. the radiologist did say my right kidney which is larger to compensate for the left one is working great. Ive done good so far though. I was told ive had this since i was about a year old.
Avatar universal
To All,
   There are numerous causes of kidney disease, with a growing incidence of healthcare induced CKD. Either way, any nephrologist worth a damn knows there is one goal, to preserve remaining kidney function, if there is function left to preserve. You can treat the cause of your kidney disease if you know the cause. If your Nephrologist, having yet to diagnose the cause, is faced with declining function and does not order a B-I-O-P-S-Y, then he is a coward and is most likely covering for one of his/her colleagues. Don't wait for that to happen, even if they can't find what caused it, they can get a good idea of why. Best of luck to all of you.

Avatar universal
we are going through the same thing with our son. Please let me know your progress and what has been done since your post. We just got the news yesterday of his condition. and to top it off he has a cyst in the underdeveloped kidney. Thanks so much
Avatar universal
I have an atrophic left kidney with 0% function. Mine is due to a severe blockage from the aortic artery. The renal artery to the left kidney is completely blocked with 0 blood flow to the kidney. The aortic artery is completely blocked down to where it branches off to both my legs, again with 0% blood flow. My body created blood vessels from above the blockage to below the blockage to both legs, but not to the kidney.

I had severe uncontrolled high blood pressure for years. Because of this, my new doctor that I had been going to for about a year, decided to send me to a cardiologist. Many test later we found my heart is fine, so the cardiologist sent me to a kidney doctor. The kidney doctor did a few tests and we finally began to get someplace with why I had such high blood pressure.

One of the test done was a renal duplex scan. This scan found the right kidney but not the left. I then had a non-coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA) with dye contrast. This CTA test found the major aortic blockage and atrophic left kidney. I had the renal function w/flow scan done that found my right kidney functioning at 96% and the left at 0%.

I would suggest anyone in this situation to ask about having these test done. Without them, who knows where I would be right now. I am currently waiting for my doctors appointment with the kidney doctor to set a plan of action and get moving on removal of the kidney and clearing the blockage.

Good luck and be persistent on treatment, it is your health at stake.
Avatar universal
My right kidney has been atrophic since I was first in the hospital with a kidney infection in 2010. I never expected continued problems. My last doctor of 2 years refused to diagnose it as kidney disease although an utlrasound confirmed the atrophic kidney and I continued having lower back pain and uti infections. My creatinine and bun levels were always low so she said I had no kidney disease. We were unable to get the first cat scan records from first diagnosis for comparison and she refused to believe it was anything other than congenital.
I recently moved to a new town and because I assigned a new pcp I was unable to get in his office when I recently got uti symptoms. I went to the ER and was given antibiotics. I returned to the ER a week later having the same symptoms. Urinalysis confirmed that infection was gone. The ER doctor then did a cat scan to search for kidney stones. He found no kidney stones but did say my atrophic kidney is completely shrived and did not think it was functioning. According to llab results my gfr has decreased by 10% in a year's time. As soon as they did not see infection or kidney stones I was quickly booted out. I reviewed my urinalysis and blood work results when I got home. My ph is 6 and chloride is high at 107. I was able to get in with a different pcp for tomorrow and hope to get some answers as to why I am still feeling  like dirt.
Avatar universal
I am suffering from a horrible lower left side / back ache, almost spasm like. I have an atrophic left kidney operating at about 20%. I am three days post op from gall bladder removal and cannot bear this pain on my left side now!  Should I go in to the ER?
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