Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Renal papillary necrosis

Definition

Renal papillary necrosis is a disorder of the kidneys in which all or part of the renal papillae die. The renal papillae are the areas where the openings of the collecting ducts enter the kidney and where urine flows into the ureters.

Alternative Names

Necrosis - renal papillae; Renal medullary necrosis

Causes

Renal papillary necrosis often occurs with analgesic nephropathy. This is damage to one or both kidneys caused by overexposure to pain medicines. But, other conditions can also cause renal papillary necrosis, including:

Symptoms

Symptoms of renal papillary necrosis may include:

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

  • Fever and chills
  • Painful urination
  • Needing to urinate more often than usual (frequent urination) or a sudden, strong urge to urinate (urgency)
  • Difficulty starting or maintaining a urine stream (urinary hesitancy)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinating large amounts
  • Urinating often at night

Exams and Tests

The area over the affected kidney (in the flank) may feel tender during an exam. There may be a history of urinary tract infections. There may be signs of blocked urine flow or kidney failure.

Tests that may be done include:

  • Urine test
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound, CT, or other imaging tests of the kidneys

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for renal papillary necrosis. Treatment depends on the cause. For example, if analgesic nephropathy is the cause, your doctor will recommend that you stop using the medicine that is causing it. This may allow the kidney to heal over time.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person does, depends on what is causing the condition. If the cause can be controlled, the condition may go away on its own. Sometimes, people with this condition develop kidney failure and will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Possible Complications

Health problems that may result from renal papillary necrosis include:

  • Kidney infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney cancer, especially in people who take a lot of pain medicines

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

  • You have bloody urine
  • You develop other symptoms of renal papillary necrosis, especially after taking over-the-counter pain medicines

Prevention

Controlling diabetes or sickle cell anemia may reduce your risk. To prevent renal papillary necrosis from analgesic nephropathy, follow your provider's instructions when using medicines, including over-the-counter pain relievers. Do not take more than the recommended dose without asking your provider.

References

Ruggenenti P, Cravedi P, Remuzzi G. Microvascular and macrovascular diseases of the kidney. In: Taal MW, Chertow GM, Marsden PA, Skorecki K, Yu ASL, Brenner BM, eds. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 34.

Zhou M, Netto GJ, Epstein JI. Renal papillary necrosis. In: Zhou M, Netto GJ, Epstein JI, eds. High-Yield Uropathology. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:253.

Review Date:9/22/2015
Reviewed By:Charles Silberberg, DO, private practice specializing in nephrology, affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No