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Am J Kidney Dis. 1991 May;17(5):491-511.

Vesicoureteric reflux and renal injury.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas 75235-9063.


Renal injury associated with the intrarenal reflux (IRR) of urine that is either infected, under high pressure, or both, is a major cause of severe hypertension during childhood and adolescence and of chronic renal insufficiency in patients less than 30 years of age. Many, but not all, adolescent and adult patients with reflux nephropathy (RN) give a history of urinary tract infection (UTI) or unexplained fevers in infancy or early childhood, when the kidney is thought to be at greatest risk of injury. Although vesicoureteric reflux (VUR) is observed more commonly in infants than children with UTI, it is rare in uninfected patients at any age and should never be considered a normal finding during human development. Renal scarring may not be obvious in radiographic or radionuclear studies to medical management alone, no definite benefit of one over the other was observed, regardless of the grade of VUR. Moreover, progressive renal injury in scarred kidneys has been noted even after VUR had been corrected, when infection had been prevented, and while hypertension had been controlled satisfactorily. Focal glomerular sclerosis, a lesion found in patients with proteinuria and RN, has been identified not only in scarred kidneys, but also may be seen in contralateral, unscarred kidneys without VUR, which might suggest a humoral factor or, perhaps, a hyperfiltration phenomenon. RN is one of the most frequent causes of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in children, adolescents, and young adults, which is potentially preventable. However, prevention will depend on early identification of patients at risk--infants and young children after the first UTI and siblings of patients with VUR--aggressive and effective treatment of UTI, minimizing intravesical pressure, and education of patients, parents, and physicians.

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