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Acute Kidney Injury: Care Instructions

Kidneys, ureters, and bladder in body, with detail showing blood from body to kidney, kidney filtering blood to remove waste (urine), urine sent to bladder, and filtered blood flowing back to body.


Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden decrease in kidney function. This can happen over a period of hours, days or, in some cases, weeks. AKI used to be called acute renal failure, but kidney failure doesn't always happen with AKI. Common causes of AKI are serious infection, blood loss, and some medicines.

When AKI happens, the kidneys have trouble removing waste and excess fluids from the body as urine. The waste and fluids build up and become harmful.

Kidney function may return to normal if the cause of AKI is treated quickly. Your chance of a full recovery depends on what caused the problem, how quickly the cause was treated, and what other medical problems you have. You may have a treatment called dialysis. It does the work of healthy kidneys to remove waste and fluids for a short time.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Talk to your doctor about how much fluid you should drink.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about what type of diet may be best for you. You may need to limit sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.
  • If you need dialysis, follow the instructions and schedule for dialysis that your doctor gives you.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make your condition worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Review all of your medicines with your doctor. Do not take any medicines, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), unless your doctor says it is safe for you to do so.
  • Make sure that anyone treating you for any health problem knows that you have had AKI.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse nausea and vomiting.
  • You have much less urine than normal, or you have no urine.
  • You are feeling confused or cannot think clearly.
  • You have new or more blood in your urine.
  • You have new swelling.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed or feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.