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Causes for Acute renal failure

As mentioned before the cause of Acute renal failure (ARF) can be categorized with respect to different levels as follows (see Figure 1):
  • Within the kidneys (renal)

  • Factors outside the kidneys (pre-renal)

  •  At the point of exit of the urine (post-renal)

Various factors such as

  • Underlying disorders that may affect kidney functioning,
  • Administration of certain medications,
  • Trauma,
  • Surgery or
  • Disorders of the kidney itself can result in Acute renal failure (ARF).

Some of the main causes have been enumerated in the Table 1.

Table 1: Causes of ARF

  • Loss of body fluids due to excessive urination, bleeding, burns or other causes
  • Cardiac disorders that result in low output
  • Conditions such as septic shock, liver failure, renal artery obstruction, renal vein thrombosis, sepsis or hepatorenal syndrome
  • Drugs such as NSAIDs, cyclosporine, ACE inhibitors that affect the normal functioning
  • Injury to the renal tubules due to obstruction, surgery, medications such as NSAIDs, cyclosporine
  • Acute glomerulonephritis
  • Acute tubulointerstitial nephritis
  • Disorders such as lymphoma, sarcoidosis, leukemia
  • Obstruction to the ureter due to calculi (kidney stones), clots, congenital defects or trauma during surgery or high impact injury
  • Obstruction in the bladder due to cancer, administration of medications such as anticholinergic drugs or due to a neural defect


Pre-renal causative factors are responsible for Acute renal failure (ARF) in about 50–80% of patients and result in reversible damages to the kidneys. These factors alter the functioning of the kidneys indirectly. The urine production may be decreased due to the increased reabsorption of water and other electrolytes in the kidneys.

In case of any kidney disorders, which are responsible for acute renal failure (ARF), the damage may at times be irreversible in about 5–10% of the cases. Obstruction to the flow of urine can build up the pressure within the blood vessels of the kidneys leading to alteration of the kidney function.1,2

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: July 21, 2011

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