Care About Your Kidneys: March is National Kidney Month
Mar 10, 2015
March is National Kidney Month. At Suburban Imaging, we care about your kidneys and your health. If you have kidney disease/renal failure or have risk factors, we make sure your kidneys are healthy enough for an imaging test. Here’s what you need to know:
What are kidneys
Kidneys are fist-sized, bean-shaped organs located on each side of the spine, and maintain proper fluid balance in the body, removing waste and toxins from the blood. Each day, the kidneys filter about 120-150 quarts (30-37.5 gallons) of blood to make 1-2 quarts (1/4 to 1/2 gallon) of urine, composed of wastes and extra fluid, states The National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse. Kidneys also produce hormones.
1 in 3 Americans are at risk for kidney disease. Main risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Family history of kidney failure
- Age 60 or older
- Other risk factors include race and overuse of pain medications
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Disease and Education Program. "Early kidney disease usually does not have signs or symptoms. Testing is the only way to know how your kidneys are doing. A blood test checks your GFR, which tells how well your kidneys are filtering. A urine test checks for albumin in your urine. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged."
Imaging and Your Kidneys
Renal ultrasound is a common imaging test performed to assess the anatomy and structure of the kidneys. Other imaging tests can also be performed:
- To identify kidney stones, a CT scan is preferred, because the exam also gives information about the appearance of the ureters and bladder.
- A nuclear medicine renal scan can help determine how the kidneys are functioning.
- If an abnormality is identified on ultrasound or CT, an MRI scan could provide more detailed information.
- An MRA scan can assess the arteries that carry blood to the kidneys for narrowing or blockages, called renal artery stenosis. Renal artery stenosis is often seen in older people who have high blood pressure or vascular disease.
Intravenous contrast material is sometimes used to enhance images taken during an MRI or CT scan. If a patient has kidney disease or risk factors, GFR test results are obtained to make sure that it is safe to use contrast. Drinking fluids prior to the test and staying adequately hydrated also helps the kidneys filter the contrast material more quickly. Some diabetic medications may also decrease the kidney's ability to filter the contrast. Our radiologists and imaging technologists are always available to answer your questions.
For more information about kidney disease, the National Kidney Foundation offers a six-step primer, available on their website.