Ectopic Kidney

An ectopic kidney, also known as renal ectopia, is a congenital condition in which a kidney is not located in its normal position and is situated in an unusual position within the body. This condition is not common, only occurring in approximately one out of every 1,000 births. The function of the kidney is usually normal but because of its location and its proximity to other organs, it may have difficulty draining. While most individuals with an ectopic kidney have no problems, others may experience kidney failure, urinary stones, urinary tract infections, or other potentially serious complications.

Symptoms of an Ectopic Kidney

Most people do not experience any symptoms of an ectopic kidney, especially if the kidney is functioning normally. In some cases, symptoms of an ectopic kidney may include:

  • Urinary problems
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lump in the abdomen

Causes of an Ectopic Kidney

The cause of an ectopic kidney is not entirely known, but one cause is thought to be a genetic abnormality. Other causes may include:

  • Defect in kidney tissue
  • In utero exposure to certain drugs or chemicals

Complications of Ectopic Kidney

Ectopic kidneys that do not function normally and do not drain properly, may cause complications that need to be treated. An ectopic kidney may cause a condition called vesicoureteral reflux, or VUR, where urine flows backwards from the bladder into the kidney. Other complications may include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney damage
  • Bladder obstruction

Diagnosis of an Ectopic Kidney

An ectopic kidney is often diagnosed accidentally when a patient is undergoing surgery or an X-ray for an unrelated condition. Patients who are experiencing related symptoms will undergo a full physical examination by a doctor that may also include the following tests:

  • Ultrasound
  • MRI or CT scan
  • X-ray
  • Blood tests to evaluate kidney function

Ectopic Kidney Treatment

Treatment for an ectopic kidney varies depending on symptoms and the severity of complications. Some cases may require surgical repositioning of the kidney to improve urinary flow. If the kidney is severely damaged, surgical removal of the kidney may be necessary. No replacement kidney is required, as people can live healthy lives with only one functioning kidney.

Additional Resources