Learning About Fetal Hydronephrosis

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What is hydronephrosis?

Hydronephrosis is swelling of the kidneys, caused by a buildup of urine. It shows up clearly on a fetal ultrasound in the third trimester.

This condition can happen if a tube that drains urine from your baby's kidneys is blocked. Or it can happen when the valve to the bladder isn't working as it should. Sometimes, there is no lasting problem at all.

What can you expect when your baby has it?

For most babies, this condition goes away just before or after the baby is born. If the kidney swelling doesn't get better after birth, a baby can have urinary tract infections or kidney problems.

After your baby is born, your doctor will do an ultrasound test to see if there still is a problem.

How is it treated?

If your baby's kidneys are still swollen after birth, the doctor may:

  • Give your baby antibiotics. This can prevent infection.
  • Do ultrasound testing. This helps the doctor look for signs that the swelling is getting better.
  • Order a renal scan after about a month. This shows how well the kidneys are working.
  • Order an X-ray of the bladder. This shows how well the bladder is working.
  • Talk to you about surgery to unblock the urine tube. But this would only happen if the problem is severe.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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