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Pediatric hydronephrosis

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Pediatric hydronephrosis is a condition characterized by the swelling of one or both kidneys due to the build-up of urine. This condition can occur in infants and children and can be detected before birth through prenatal ultrasounds or after birth during evaluations for urinary tract infections or other urinary symptoms. Hydronephrosis can range from mild to severe and can be caused by various factors affecting urine flow.


The causes of pediatric hydronephrosis can be broadly classified into two categories:

  1. Obstructive: There is a physical blockage in the urinary tract that prevents urine from flowing normally. This blockage can occur at any point along the urinary tract, from the kidneys down to the urethra. Common causes include ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) obstruction, posterior urethral valves, and ureterovesical junction (UVJ) obstruction.
  2. Non-obstructive: The urinary tract is not physically blocked, but urine flow is still impaired due to other reasons, such as vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), in which urine flows back from the bladder into the ureters and kidneys.


In many cases, pediatric hydronephrosis may not cause any noticeable symptoms, especially if it’s mild. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Pain in the abdomen or flank
  • Hematuria (blood in urine)
  • Poor growth or feeding issues in infants
  • Vomiting
  • Increased frequency or urgency of urination


Hydronephrosis is often diagnosed through imaging studies, including:

  • Prenatal ultrasounds: Can detect hydronephrosis before birth.
  • Postnatal ultrasounds: Used to confirm the diagnosis after birth.
  • Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG): An X-ray test that examines the bladder and urethra while the bladder fills and empties to check for VUR.
  • Diuretic renogram: A nuclear medicine test that assesses how well the kidneys function and drain.


The treatment for pediatric hydronephrosis depends on the cause, severity, and whether one or both kidneys are affected. Treatment options include:

  • Observation and monitoring: Mild cases may only require regular follow-up with ultrasounds to monitor the condition.
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis: May be prescribed to prevent UTIs, especially in cases associated with VUR.
  • Surgery: In cases where there’s a significant obstruction or VUR causing recurrent infections or affecting kidney function, surgical intervention may be necessary. The type of surgery depends on the cause of hydronephrosis.


The prognosis for children with hydronephrosis varies depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Many cases of mild hydronephrosis resolve on their own without any long-term effects on kidney function. However, severe cases or those caused by significant obstructions may require surgical correction to prevent kidney damage.

It’s important for children diagnosed with hydronephrosis to be monitored regularly by a pediatric urologist or nephrologist to ensure appropriate management and to prevent potential complications.

The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice of a physician