Acute Tubular Necrosis

Your kidney contains networks of long narrow tubes that help the body in maintaining the right proportion of salt, fluids, and other useful substances. These structures also remove substances in the blood that are harmful to the body through the urine. When these networks of tubes are damaged for whatever reason, acute tubular necrosis, abbreviated as ATN, will be the outcome. It is a kind of acute kidney injury that can bring about an acute kidney failure.


Symptoms of acute tubular necrosis

It is the severity of it that defines the symptoms. The following will be experienced anyways;

  • a feeling of drowsiness during the day
  • feeling of lethargy, that is, feeling physically drained
  • a feeling of excessive thirstiness due to dehydration
  • urine quantity will be very poor or absent altogether
  • retention of body fluid which will result in swelling of the body
  • Experiencing episodes of confusion
  • Feelings of nausea or vomiting.


Acute Tubular Necrosis

Photo Credit: Pathology Education Instructional Resource


Causes of acute tubular necrosis

Oxygen in the body keeps all the cells and tissues in the body functioning at optimal capacity. When it is not in sufficient amount, body cells and tissues will start dying. And the kidneys are not an exemption.  One of the common reasons why your body cells, tissues and, organs might not have enough oxygen getting to them is because of low blood pressure, antibiotics, anesthetics, toxins and radiology dyes. They have the ability to alter cell structures and functions.


Who is at risk?

Your likelihood of developing an acute kidney tubular necrosis is hinged basically on your general health status. The following conditions can trigger it.

  • Injury to the kidneys. Kidney injuries can result in trauma to the blood vessels. When the blood vessels are traumatized, blood will become clotted in the vessels. When this happens, other parts of the kidney beyond the point of blood clot will not receive blood.  Hence, their death is inevitable.
  • Blood transfusion reactions: It is possible for your body to reject an organ or tissue that has been implanted into it. These implanted organs are usually from another person and your body is not familiar with them. When your body sees such organs as strangers, your body will attack them and in the process destroy your blood cells. This can further lead to an acute tubular necrosis.
  • Septic shock. It is a condition characterized by a drastic fall in your blood pressure. It also comes with a slow circulation of blood in your kidneys. It becomes very serious if you already have hypotension.
  • A major surgery can predispose you to have serious complications with your blood supply.


Diagnosis for acute tubular necrosis

There are specific diagnostic tests that can help your doctor to diagnose the condition.

  • Urinalysis: It will be employed to assess your urine color as well as find out the presence of abnormal cells, bacterial and other infections.
  • Blood urea nitrogen and creatinine urine tests: These two substances increase in their concentration in the advent of a kidney insufficiency.
  • Biopsy: It is used to examine the tissues of your kidneys.
  • Your sodium and creatinine levels can also be assayed for, from your blood sample.
  • CT scans: The doctor uses a CT scan to view your kidneys so he can find out what the exact problem is and where it is located.


Treatment for acute tubular necrosis

To treat an acute kidney necrosis, medications that have the ability to decrease fluid and waste accumulation in your kidneys will be administered to you. Your current diet may also be affected. You might have to reduce the consumption of foods that are very heavy in potassium and sodium.

Your water consumption might also be altered. This will be to control the amount of it that you drink as it can help check against fluid retention in your legs, arms, and feet. There are times that this method might not be effective in controlling excess fluid buildup in your body. This is where a dialysis comes in. It is the use of an artificial machine to assist your kidneys in filtering out too many wastes and fluids in your body.



If your overall health status is good and you begin early treatment, your acute kidney necrosis can be pretty reversed.

But when there is another condition associated with it, your recovery time might be prolonged.


Preventing acute tubular necrosis

To prevent your chances of developing an acute tubular necrosis, ensure to always and promptly attend to conditions that reduce your blood and oxygen flows to the kidney. All existing medical conditions such as heart failure, diabetes, and liver deficiencies should be put under control.

You know water, right? Drink plenty of it! Anytime you use any contrast dyes. You can ask your doctor to do a follow up on your blood if you are taking medications that have the potency for kidney toxicity.

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