What is Renal Vein Thrombosis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Renal vein thrombosis is a blockage of the vein that drains the kidneys. It can occur suddenly or over time and the types of symptoms experienced vary, depending on the cause and how quickly the blockage formed. Since it often occurs in concurrence with existing kidney problems, it is usually identified early during routine medical evaluations. Many cases of renal vein thrombosis can be resolved, allowing patients to recover. Treatment is usually supervised by a nephrologist, a medical specialist who focuses on caring for the kidneys.

Human kidneys.
Human kidneys.

People can develop renal vein thrombosis as a result of trauma, tumors, scarring, or renal failure. A condition called nephrotic syndrome, where the kidneys leak large amounts of protein into the bloodstream, is another cause. Renal vein thrombosis is relatively rare. The primary risks of the condition involve impaired drainage of the kidneys along with the development of an embolus, a blood clot that breaks off and ends up somewhere else in the body. An embolus can reach the lungs, causing complications for the patient.

A blood clot in the renal vein can produce renal vein thrombosis.
A blood clot in the renal vein can produce renal vein thrombosis.

Medical imaging studies of the kidneys and surrounding area can be used to identify a clot and check for signs of swelling in the kidneys that indicate poor drainage. Treatment for renal vein thrombosis can include administering anticoagulants to prevent further clot formation, along with using clot-busting drugs to break up the clot so that it can be passed from the body. Treating the underlying cause can also be an important aspect of managing the clot.

While in treatment, patients may be advised to rest and in some cases may be put on bed rest while they are recovering. Physical activity could loosen the clot, allowing it to break off in an embolus. The patient will be periodically evaluated to see if the clot is resolving. If the clot is not breaking up or it appears to be growing, additional treatment options may need to be considered to address the issue.

Signs of changes in kidney function that can indicate renal vein thrombosis or other kidney disorders include changes in urine production and discolored urine. Patients can also experience abdominal pain and discomfort and may develop high blood pressure. Because the kidneys act as a filtration system for the body and they are interconnected with many other systems in the body, people can start to experience a cascade of symptoms as the kidneys struggle to function, including shortness of breath and heart problems.

Evidence of renal vein thrombosis can be detected by an ultrasound.
Evidence of renal vein thrombosis can be detected by an ultrasound.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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