Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are known to have adverse effects on kidney function. Situations with a stimulated renin-angiotensin system such as volume depletion or pre-existing chronic renal failure predispose to acute renal failure (ARF) via inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis by NSAIDs. To date, NSAIDs are frequently used as antipyretic drugs even in situations predisposing to ARF. Within 20 months, seven children presenting with diarrhoea and/or vomiting and fever were treated with therapeutic doses (11.5-32 mg/kg per day) of ibuprofen for 1 to 3 days before developing ARF. Maximum plasma creatinine levels were 180-650 micromol/l. One patient required emergency dialysis for hyperkalaemia, uraemia, and hyperphosphataemia. After cessation of NSAID treatment and rehydration, all patients recovered completely with a normalised creatinine level after 3 to 9 days. Once the acute phase is controlled, long-term outcome is excellent. Interstitial nephritis, another possible adverse effect of NSAIDs, might require steroid treatment and is the major differential diagnosis. Only histological examination can confirm the exact pathomechanism of ARF after NSAID exposure. If immunological events are responsible for the ARF, the recovery period is usually longer.
Conclusion: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are potentially dangerous in situations with even moderate volume depletion.