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J Am Soc Nephrol. 1997 Apr;8(4):653-63.

Obstruction of the fetal urinary tract.

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Department of Urology, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Understanding the mechanisms of fetal obstructive uropathy will be essential for the specific management of the wide clinical spectrum of congenital obstructive conditions, including selecting observational therapy for mild cases and attempting to maximize renal function in severe cases. Recognition of the unique aspects of fetal renal obstruction is essential to formulate a useful research program, as the lessons of postnatal acquired obstruction are not directly transferable to congenital obstruction. Experimental studies of renal obstruction have demonstrated alterations in the developmental regulation of growth and differentiation in the fetal kidney. Depending on the gestational timing and severity of obstruction, growth may be impaired or accelerated. Similarly, patterns of altered differentiation may indicate immaturity or accelerated maturation, as well as aberrant differentiation. Concomitant with altered development, there is evidence that normal renal regulatory mechanisms, including the renin-angiotensin system and renal hemodynamics, may be affected by obstruction, possibly as compensatory responses. The mechanisms of these various alterations remain to be defined, but are likely to involve combinations of biomechanical signal transduction, growth factor expression, and responses of specific renal autoregulatory mechanisms. Fetal renal obstruction remains incompletely defined. The body of experimental evidence indicates that investigation of mechanisms regulating growth and differentiation is likely to yield important understanding of fetal renal obstruction to permit more accurate prognosis and management. Viewing fetal renal obstruction as a disorder of kidney development, with disordered growth and differentiation, suggests a definition of obstruction as a condition, that--if uncorrected--will lead to impairment in the ultimate functional potential of the kidney. Intervention should aim to maximize functional potential rather than to simply maintain the status quo.

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