Emphysematous urinary tract infections: diagnosis, treatment and survival (case review series)

Am J Med Sci. 2007 Feb;333(2):111-6. doi: 10.1097/00000441-200702000-00009.


Background: Emphysematous urinary tract infections are rare conditions, usually occurring in diabetic patients. Mortality rates in medically managed patients are reported to be as high as 70% to 90%. Growth of the diabetic population warrants heightened attention to these potentially fatal infections. We report a series of 5 cases with favorable outcomes.

Case reports: All patients were diabetic. Presenting symptoms included fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. On physical examination, two patients had costovertebral angle tenderness; a third was dehydrated; a fourth had dehydration and an abdominal mass; and a fifth patient had suprapubic tenderness. All cases had leukocytosis and impaired renal function. Computed tomography (CT) scan disclosed emphysematous pyelonephritis in 3 cases (gas within renal parenchyma and/or perirenal tissue), emphysematous pyelitis in 1 case (gas in collecting system), and emphysematous cystitis in 1 patient (gas within bladder wall). Urine culture of 1 case grew Enterococci, whereas in the other cases cultures yielded gas-producing organisms. All patients received intravenous antibiotics. Two patients underwent CT-guided abscess drainage; 2 cases had J-stent placement, and one patient was readmitted with septic shock and underwent nephrectomy. All the patients' conditions improved and they were discharged.

Discussion: Emphysematous urinary tract infections are usually caused by gas-producing organisms. They should be suspected in diabetic patients with urinary tract infections and worsening of renal function. CT scan is the method of choice for diagnosis and follow up. None of our patients died, mainly due to early diagnosis, sequential radiologic assessment, and timely surgical intervention when needed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Emphysema / complications
  • Emphysema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Emphysema / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / complications
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Tract Infections / complications
  • Urinary Tract Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / drug therapy*