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What is a Wandering Kidney?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Also known as a floating kidney or nephroptosis, a wandering kidney is a condition in which the kidney shifts when an individual rises from a sitting position. The shift usually involves moving downward into the pelvis area. While both genders may develop a wandering kidney, the condition is more common among women.

The exact cause for the development of a wandering kidney is often difficult to determine. What is sure is that the kidney begins to shift once the supporting perirenal fasciae is weakened to the point that it can no longer maintain the kidney in a natural position. However, there is still a considerable difference of opinion on what factors must occur in order to weaken the fasciae sufficiently to allow the kidney to float or wander.

In terms of symptoms, many people with a wandering kidney exhibit no outward signs of discomfort at all. In fact, the condition may go completely undetected unless discovered at part of a medical exam conducted to identify other conditions associated with the general area where the kidney resides. Fortunately, a wandering kidney may not pose a threat to general health in many people. Only when the condition manifests some type of outward symptoms is it highly likely that some type of treatment will take place.

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When symptoms are exhibited, they can include a wide range of outward manifestations. The individual may experience recurring bouts of nausea, unexplained episodes of sudden chills, or sharp pains that seem to originate in the lower abdomen and travel into the groin area. Some patients report a sense of extra weight in the pelvic area when they are in an upright position. In many instances, the symptoms fade once the individual returns to a prone position.

Diagnosing a wandering kidney requires a thorough examination by a qualified physician. The physical exam will include the use of intravenous urography, allowing the physician to observe the movement of the kidney as the patient shifts positions. As part of the diagnosis, the physician can determine how much of a drop the kidney makes as the patient rises from a prone position into a fully standing position.

Depending on the severity of the condition, physicians may recommend a surgical procedure known as nephropexy. The procedure is essentially a strategy to secure the kidney in a natural position and prevent the floating or wandering from taking place. In addition to traditional nephropexy, newer techniques such as laproscopic nephropexy are becoming more common. However, surgery is not generally utilized unless the patient is experiencing significant pain and discomfort from the condition.

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