Unilateral multicystic dysplastic kidney: a meta-analysis of observational studies on the incidence, associated urinary tract malformations and the contralateral kidney

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2009 Jun;24(6):1810-8. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfn777. Epub 2009 Jan 26.


Background: Many papers are published on cohorts with unilateral multicystic dysplastic kidney (MCDK) patients, but show variable results as to the incidence of associated urinary tract abnormalities. The objective of this study was to describe the status of the urinary tract, including contralateral hypertrophy and malformations, in patients with unilateral MCDK based on a meta-analysis of the literature, taking into account the timing of diagnosis (pre- versus postnatal) as a possible source of bias.

Methods: A systematic review of the scientific literature in English was conducted using PubMed and Embase. A meta-analysis was performed with the studies that were identified using our reproducible search.

Results: Based on analysis of the data in 19 populations, the overall incidence of unilateral MCDK is 1 in 4300 with an increasing trend over the years. A total of 67 cohorts with over 3500 patients with unilateral MCDK were included in the meta-analysis. Fifty-nine percent of patients were male and the MCDKs were significantly more often found on the left side (53.1%). Associated anomalies in the solitary functioning kidney were found in 1 in 3 patients, mainly vesicoureteric reflux (VUR, in 19.7%). In patients with VUR, 40% have severe contralateral VUR, defined as grade III-V. Contralateral hypertrophy, present in 77% of patients after a follow-up of at least 10 years, showed a trend to be less pronounced in patients with VUR. Timing of the diagnosis of MCDK did not essentially influence the results.

Conclusions: These aggregate results provide insight into the incidence, demographic data and associated anomalies in patients with unilateral MCDK. One in three patients with unilateral MCDK show anomalies in the contralateral, solitary functioning kidney. However, studies into the long-term consequences of these anomalies are scarce.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / abnormalities*
  • Male
  • Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney / complications*
  • Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney / epidemiology*
  • Urinary Tract / abnormalities*