Life with one kidney

Pediatr Nephrol. 2018 Apr;33(4):595-604. doi: 10.1007/s00467-017-3686-4. Epub 2017 May 29.


Life with a solitary functioning kidney (SFK) may be different from that when born with two kidneys. Based on the hyperfiltration hypothesis, a SFK may lead to glomerular damage with hypertension, albuminuria and progression towards end-stage renal disease. As the prognosis of kidney donors was considered to be very good, having a SFK has been considered to be a benign condition. In contrast, our research group has demonstrated that being born with or acquiring a SFK in childhood results in renal injury before adulthood in over 50% of those affected. Most congenital cases will be detected during antenatal ultrasound screening, but up to 38% of cases of unilateral renal agenesis are missed. In about 25-50% of cases of antenatally detected SFK there will be signs of hypertrophy, which could indicate additional nephron formation and is associated with a somewhat reduced risk of renal injury. Additional renal and extrarenal anomalies are frequently detected and may denote a genetic cause for the SFK, even though for the majority of cases no explanation can (yet) be found. The ongoing glomerular hyperfiltration results in renal injury, for which early markers are lacking. Individuals with SFK should avoid obesity and excessive salt intake to limit additional hyperfiltration. As conditions like hypertension, albuminuria and a mildly reduced glomerular filtration rate generally do not result in specific complaints but may pose a threat to long-term health, screening for renal injury in any individual with a SFK would appear to be imperative, starting from infancy. With early treatment, secondary consequences may be diminished, thereby providing the optimal life for anyone born with a SFK.

Keywords: Childhood; Glomerular hyperfiltration; Multicystic dysplastic kidney; Solitary functioning kidney; Unilateral renal agenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kidney / physiopathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Male
  • Solitary Kidney / complications*