Diagnostic work-up and specific causes of acute kidney injury

Intensive Care Med. 2017 Jun;43(6):829-840. doi: 10.1007/s00134-017-4799-8. Epub 2017 Apr 25.


Acute kidney injury (AKI) is common in critically ill patients and associated with grim short- and long-term outcome. Although in the vast majority of cases AKI is multifactorial, with sepsis, shock and nephrotoxicity accounting for most episodes, specific causes of AKI are not uncommon. Despite remaining uncertainties regarding their prevalence in the ICU, prompt recognition of specific aetiologies of AKI is likely to ensure timely management, limit worsening of renal dysfunction, and ultimately limit renal and systemic consequences of AKI. The ability to recognize conditions that may be associated with specific aetiologies and the appropriate use of clinical imaging, biological and immunological tests, along with optimal assessment of the need for renal biopsies, should be part of routine ICU care. In this review, we summarize uncertainties, current knowledge and recent advances regarding specific types of AKI. We describe the most common specific causes as well as rare aetiologies requiring urgent management, and outline available tools that may be used during the diagnostic work-up along with their limitations.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury; Biopsy; Diagnostic techniques and procedures; Glomerular filtration rate; Intensive care unit; Kidney function tests.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / diagnosis*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / therapy*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Sepsis / diagnosis*
  • Sepsis / therapy*