Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Renal Artery Stenosis

Definition

The kidneys filter wastes from the blood and make urine. When the blood vessels that supply the kidneys with blood narrow, it’s called renal artery stenosis. The narrowing lowers the amount of blood flowing to one or both kidneys. Problems in both can lead to kidney failure.

The Kidney and its Main Blood Vessels

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Causes  ^

The kidneys control blood pressure. They help make sure the body has enough oxygen and blood. Narrowing causes blood pressure to go up. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and heart attack.

The 2 most common causes are:

  • Atherosclerosis—Plaque builds up in the arteries and blocks blood flow.
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia—Muscle and tissue thicken on the artery wall and harden into rings. The rings block blood flow.

Risk Factors  ^

Risk is higher if you:

  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a blocked blood vessel in another part of the body
  • Had a stroke or heart attack
  • Smoke
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high cholesterol

Symptoms  ^

Most people don’t have problems. When they do appear, they may cause:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathing problems from fluid buildup in the lungs
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness

Diagnosis  ^

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may also have:

Treatment  ^

Care involves lowering blood pressure. This will help lower stress on the kidneys. Care may involve:

  • Quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, or eating better foods
  • Medicines to lower blood pressure
  • Surgery such as:
    • Percutaneous angioplasty—using a balloon or stent to open the artery
    • Bypass—rebuilding a blood vessel by going around the block
    • Remove one or both kidneys—nephrectomy

Prevention  ^

There aren’t specific steps to prevent this condition.

RESOURCES:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
https//www.niddk.nih.gov

National Kidney Foundation
https://www.kidney.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

The Kidney Foundation of Canada
https://www.kidney.ca

REFERENCES:

Balk E, Raman G, Chung M, et al. Effectiveness of management strategies for renal artery stenosis: A systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145(12):901-912.

Krumme B, Donauer J. Atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis and reconstruction. Kidney Int. 2006;70(9):1543-1547.

Renal artery stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115312/Renal-artery-stenosis. Updated September 8, 2017. Accessed June 11, 2018.

Zeller T. Renal artery stenosis: Epidemiology, clinical manifestation, and percutaneous endovascular therapy. J Interv Cardiol. 2005;18(6):497-506.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD  Last Updated: 6/11/2018