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Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Dec;40(6):665-8. doi: 10.1002/uog.11168.

Compensatory enlargement of a solitary functioning kidney during fetal development.

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Department of Pathology, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



To determine the degree of compensatory enlargement, and its time of onset, of the solitary functioning kidney (SFK) in fetuses with unilateral renal agenesis (URA) or unilateral multicystic kidney dysplasia (MCKD).


This was a retrospective study of fetuses with URA or MCKD diagnosed prenatally and confirmed postnatally in the period from January 1999 to May 2011. Fetuses with any other congenital anomalies were excluded. Measurements of kidney length were retrieved from our prenatal ultrasound database and a nomogram was established and compared with that for normal kidney length.


In total, 67 fetuses were identified, 60 with MCKD and seven with URA, for which we obtained 147 kidney length measurements from our database. Mean gestational age at time of measurement was 29.7 (range, 18.4-36.7) weeks. Compensatory enlargement, defined as renal length >95(th) percentile for gestational age, was demonstrated in 87% of the MCKD cases and 100% of the URA cases (88% of cases overall). We estimated the mean enlargement for an SFK (defined as difference from 50(th) percentile for normal renal length) at 36 weeks' gestation to be 23.1% (9.25 mm), with the mean value being 11.4% (5.04 mm) greater than the 95(th) percentile for a normal kidney at this gestational age. Compensatory enlargement of SFKs was evident from the 20(th) week of gestation onwards.


Compensatory enlargement of SFKs occurs in almost 90% of fetuses with MCKD or URA, and may be observed from the 20(th) week of gestation onwards.

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