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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Histological study of fetal kidney with urethral obstruction and vesicoureteral reflux: a consideration on the etiology of congenital reflux nephropathy.

PURPOSE: A recent subject of interest regarding reflux nephropathy is the presence of renal abnormalities in neonates and infants who have no history of urinary tract infections. Debates have centered on the etiology of this renal abnormality - congenital reflux nephropathy; regarding whether it is the result of abnormal ureteral budding or of back pressure effect from sterile reflux. We examined the renal pathology of fetuses with urethral obstruction and vesicoureteral reflux, and we suggest herein a possible etiology of congenital reflux nephropathy. METHODS: The renal pathology of seven autopsied fetuses with vesicoureteral reflux was studied. Reflux was demonstrated at autopsy by slow injection of contrast medium into the bladder. Severe urethral obstruction, either atresia or urethral valves, was evident in six of the subjects. RESULTS: In six subjects, abnormality of the urinary tracts was detected by prenatal ultrasonography. Of these six subjects, three revealed characteristics of prune belly syndrome. Reflux was graded as moderate in five subjects, and severe in two. In three subjects autopsied at 21 weeks gestation or earlier, the kidneys were well-developed with normal corticomedullary configuration, and nephrogenesis was retained. In three cases autopsied at over 25 weeks of gestation, the kidneys were grossly cystic, and the nephrogenic zone was completely absent. Contrast medium was observed not only in the dilated ducts and tubules, but also in the subcapsular cysts. Extravasation of the contrast medium was seen in the peritubular space. In the last subject with normal lower urinary tract, abnormal segments among normal cortical structures were observed. CONCLUSION: Our findings of renal pathology in fetuses with reflux are quite similar to those seen in fetal hydronephrosis. Back pressure from reflux probably damages the developing kidney leading to a degeneration of the ampullae and a reduction in the number of nephrons. Both dilatation of the collecting ducts and tubules, and extravasation of the urine may result in interstitial fibrosis. We postulate that one of the important etiologies of congenital reflux nephropathy may be the result of back pressure from sterile reflux.[1]


  1. Histological study of fetal kidney with urethral obstruction and vesicoureteral reflux: a consideration on the etiology of congenital reflux nephropathy. Shimada, K., Matsumoto, F., Tohda, A., Ueda, M. International journal of urology : official journal of the Japanese Urological Association. (2003) [Pubmed]
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