What is acute kidney injury?

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden loss of kidney function. This condition was formally known as acute renal failure, or acute kidney failure.

This condition may be caused by a number of acute insults including systemic sepsis, drug toxicity, obstruction to drainage of the kidneys and specific renal diseases such as glomerulonephritis. AKI is often preventable or treatable. Background co-morbidities such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease and vascular disease are all risk factors.

The kidneys precisely regulate the volume and composition of body fluids, removing waste products from the circulation. AKI can therefor result in serious complications as hyperkalaemia, pulmonary oedema, uraemia and acidosis.

AKI is diagnosed and staged according to internationally agreed criteria known as the KDIGO classification. This classification has been endorsed by NICE, the UK Renal Association and the AKI National Programme (‘Think Kidneys’). The KDIGO diagnostic and staging system for AKI is shown here and is explained in video form here.

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