Hydronephrosis | Kidney Blockage | MedStar Health

Hydronephrosis occurs when the urine made by a kidney is unable to drain steadily into the bladder. This causes the urine to “back up” into the kidney and “swelling” of the kidney. This can happen to one or both kidneys, depending on the cause. Sometimes the swelling is not because of a blockage, but because of reflux – when urine can flow back up from the bladder up to the kidneys.

Hydronephrosis is not a disease itself and is actually a sign of another underlying problem. The list of potential causes includes:

  • Blockage of the urinary tract at birth

  • Kidney stones

  • Blood clot

  • Scarring of the ureters (which drain urine from the kidney to the bladder)

  • Tumor of the bladder, prostate, cervix, or colon

  • Enlarged prostate

  • Enlarged uterus from pregnancy

  • Persistent urinary tract infection

  • Injuries to the urinary tract from trauma or prior surgeries

Symptoms

Symptoms do not always present themselves even when a UPJ obstruction is present. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Abdominal and flank pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Kidney stones

  • Urinary tract infections

  • High blood pressure

Over time, if UPJ obstructions go untreated, deteriorated kidney function can become a serious problem.

Treatment

When the obstruction is mild, it is usually left to correct itself. Antibiotics may be used to prevent infection. Because there is the potential for kidney damage, more severe cases tend to require pyeloplasty, a surgical procedure that removes the blockage and reconnects the ureter and the renal pelvis.

Treatment for Ureteropelvic Junction (UPJ)

When the obstruction is mild, it is usually left to correct itself. Antibiotics may be used to prevent infection. Because there is the potential for kidney damage, more severe cases tend to require pyeloplasty, a surgical procedure that removes the blockage and reconnects the ureter and the renal pelvis.

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MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010