Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)

What is AKI?

AKI is a syndrome that can have many different causes which all result in an abrupt decrease in kidney function. AKI can lead to increased risk of illness and death, both in the short and long term and has also been linked with the development of chronic kidney disease. In the United States, AKI is one of the most serious and common health complications, occurring in up to 20% of all hospitalized patients and over 45% of patients in a critical care setting.

Major Causes

Major causes of AKI include:

  • Burns
  • Shock
  • Drug toxicity
  • Sepsis
  • Trauma
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Exposure to intravenous contrast dyes used in imaging procedures

Are you at risk?

There are certain characteristics that make you more susceptible to AKI. These include being older, female, or black. There are also certain conditions that place you at greater risk: dehydration, chronic diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and pre-existing chronic kidney disease.

How can you prevent AKI?

There are a number of preventive steps that health care providers can take to minimize the risk of AKI, especially in those at increased risk so it’s important to be aware of your kidney status. Are your kidneys working as they should be? Find out by asking your primary care provider to conduct two simple tests:

  • A blood test for serum creatinine, to use to calculate an eGFR measurement which tells how well your kidneys are filtering wastes from the blood.
  • A urine test for protein which can indicate kidney damage.

It’s also critical to make sure that all physicians caring for you, particularly radiologists, anesthesiologists, and surgeons, are aware of your kidney status or any other risk factors you have for AKI. Certain medications and dyes used in medical tests are cleared by the kidneys and if your kidneys aren’t functioning at their prime, these medications may not be a good choice for you. Weigh the risks and benefits with your physician.

Some other preventive measures include:

  • Staying adequately hydrated – drink water!
  • Avoiding long term use of drugs that are toxic to the kidneys such as: certain over the counter (OTC) pain medications (NSAIDS) and some herbal remedies

As we celebrate World Kidney Day this year, keep in mind that AKI is common and harmful, but can be prevented if we recognize that our kidneys play a critical role in our overall health and require our attention to maintain their optimal function through our life.

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2015 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.