Acute Kidney Injuries



AKI has many causes:

  • Blood is blocked from going into the kidneys because of:
    • Problems with blood vessels
    • Blood loss
    • Excessive fluid loss— dehydration
    • Infection
  • Problems inside the kidney cause loss of filtering because of:
    • Problems after surgery
    • Inflammation
    • Blood clots
    • Medicine side effects
  • Kidney stones
  • Enlarged prostate

Risk Factors

AKI is most common in older adults. Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Long term diseases, such as:
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney, liver, or heart disease
  • Dehydration
  • Bleeding from the stomach or intestines
  • Certain medicines and illegal drugs
  • Problems after surgery or a hospital stay
  • Blockages, which can happen with benign prostatic hyperplasia or a bladder tumor



Most people do not have symptoms. In those that have them, AKI may cause:

  • Changes in urination (peeing), such as:
  • Lower or higher amounts of urine than normal
  • Dark or red urine
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Lack of hunger
  • Swelling
  • Weight gain


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Blood and urine tests will be done to measure levels of toxins and proteins. It will show how well the kidneys are working. Images of the kidneys may be taken with:

  • Kidney ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • MRA scan



Care depends on the cause of AKI and how serious it is. The goal is to manage the cause and support the kidneys until they can work again. The kidneys may be able to recover normal function once they have had a chance to rest. Care may involve:

  • Stopping or changing medicines causing harm to the kidneys
  • Controlling blood pressure and diabetes
  • Avoiding medicine that could be harmful
  • Limiting salt and protein in diet
  • IV fluids
  • Dialysis—a machine works for the kidneys by filtering blood
  • Caring for problems such as kidney stones or infections

Some AKIs can cause lasting severe damage to kidneys. Long term dialysis or a kidney transplant may be needed.


Most AKI cannot be prevented.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.