Congenital reflux nephropathy and severe unilateral fetal reflux

Jeffrey A. Stock, Deborah Wilson, Moneer K. Hanna

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47 Scopus citations


Purpose: When prenatal ultrasound reveals urinary tract dilatation, fetal reflux is suspected. Postnatal voiding cystourethrography confirms the diagnosis. The origin of reflux nephropathy is controversial, and the roles of urinary tract infection and pressure effects of sterile reflux on the developing kidneys are debatable. We evaluate the relationship between sterile reflux and renal scarring. Materials and Methods: We reviewed the records of 100 infants and children seen during a 15-year period in whom fetal reflux had been diagnosed, including 81 with bilateral and 19 with unilateral vesicoureteral reflux. In 12 of the 19 patients voiding cystourethrography revealed unilateral grade IV or V reflux, and they comprise the study group. Split renal function was measured in all 12 patients by radionuclide renal scan shortly after birth and before urinary tract infection developed. Results: Individual renal function was 0 to 40% in all refluxing renal units. Split renal function was less than 10% in 3 kidneys, 10 to 30% in 5 and 30 to 40% in 4. There were 2 nonfunctioning kidneys. In the remaining 10 kidneys isotope distribution on the nuclear scan indicated decreased renal length and mass. Subsequently 7 patients had breakthrough urinary tract infections while on antibiotic chemoprophylaxis. Nephrectomy, and nephroureterectomy and ureteral reimplantation with or without tapering were performed in 3 and 9 refluxing ureters, respectively. Pathological examination of the 3 nephrectomy specimens revealed severe renal dysplasia consisting of persistent primitive ducts and nests of metaplastic cartilage. Conclusions: Our study supports the notion that renal impairment associated with severe fetal reflux is present at birth, and it is likely due to congenital dysplasia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1018
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number3 II
StatePublished - Sep 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Abnormalities
  • Kidney
  • Prenatal studies
  • Ureter
  • Vesico-ureteral reflux


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