Treatment and prognosis for unilateral hydronephrosis depend on what is causing the kidney swelling. Treatment may include:
A ureteral stent (tube that allows the ureter to drain into the bladder)
A nephrostomy tube (allows the blocked urine to drain through the back)
Antibiotics for infections
Patients who have only one kidney, who have immune-compromising disorders such as diabetes or HIV, or who have received a transplant should be treated promptly.
Preventative antibiotics may be prescribed to decrease the risk of urinary tract infections in patients who have long-term hydronephrosis.
Prolonged hydronephrosis results in the eventual loss of kidney function.
If hydronephrosis is left untreated, the affected kidney may be permanently damaged. Kidney insufficiency or kidney failure is rare with unilateral hydronephrosis because the other kidney usually functions normally. However, if the patient has only one functioning kidney, kidney failure will occur.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have prolonged or severe flank pain, or if you suspect hydronephrosis.
Prevention of the disorders associated with unilateral hydronephrosis will prevent this condition.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.