Acute interstitial nephritis - a reappraisal and update

Clin Nephrol. 2014 Sep;82(3):149-62. doi: 10.5414/cn108386.


Acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) is an under recognized and under diagnosed cause of acute kidney injury (AKI). It is estimated to account for 15 - 20% of cases of AKI; it is the reported diagnosis in 2.8% of all kidney biopsies, and 13.5% of biopsies done specifically for acute renal failure. Considerable evidence implicates antigen initiated cell-mediated injury in the pathogenesis of AIN. Drugs account for 70% of all cases, with over 150 different agents incriminated. The remaining cases are due to infections, autoimmune diseases, and rarely idiopathic. The central component of renal injury in AIN is altered tubular function, which usually precedes decrements in filtration rate. The key to early diagnosis is vigilance for the presence of tubular dysfunction in non-oliguric individuals, especially in patients with modest but gradual increments in creatinine level. The utility of urinary biomarkers to diagnose AIN in its early nascent and potentially reversible stage remains to be determined. Prompt recognition, elimination of the offending source of antigen, and use of a limited course of steroid therapy where indicated, will result in complete resolution in ~ 65% of cases, partial resolution in up to 20%, and irreversible damage in the rest.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury* / diagnosis
  • Acute Kidney Injury* / epidemiology
  • Acute Kidney Injury* / immunology
  • Acute Kidney Injury* / physiopathology
  • Acute Kidney Injury* / therapy
  • Biopsy
  • Disease Progression
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Kidney* / drug effects
  • Kidney* / immunology
  • Kidney* / pathology
  • Kidney* / physiopathology
  • Nephritis, Interstitial* / diagnosis
  • Nephritis, Interstitial* / epidemiology
  • Nephritis, Interstitial* / immunology
  • Nephritis, Interstitial* / physiopathology
  • Nephritis, Interstitial* / therapy
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Remission Induction
  • Risk Factors
  • Steroids / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Steroids