Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body. Although not commonly treated, the renal arteries can also be affected by atherosclerosis.
Definition of Renal Artery Disease
Renal artery disease is the name given narrowing of the renal arteries that can impair blood flow to the kidneys. This is most often caused by atherosclerosis.
The Anatomy of Renal Artery Disease
The renal arteries arise from the abdominal aorta to supply blood de oxygenated blood to the kidneys. Fatty plaques or atherosclerosis can develop in the renal arteries, impairing blood flow and decreasing the ability of the kidneys to remove toxins from the body.
Causes of Renal Artery Disease
Atherosclerosis is a major cause of renal artery disease. Patients can have other comorbidities that will also cause narrowing of the renal arteries such as fibromuscular dysplasia and vasculitis.
Symptoms of Renal Artery Disease
Most patients do not notice symptoms. Patients are usually found to have renal artery disease based on other clinical findings. These may include:
- High blood pressure that does not respond to medication
- Worsening kidney function or a shrinkage of kidney size without cause
- Rapid onset of massive pulmonary edema
For most patients, their primary physicians or nephrologists (kidney doctors) will help make the diagnosis of renal artery disease.
Diagnosis of Renal Artery Disease
Renal artery disease is diagnosed based on imaging. While an angiogram is the gold standard, most patients can be diagnosed with an ultrasound or computed tomography (CT).
Prevention of Renal Artery Disease
Prevention of artery disease always centers around maintaining a healthy blood pressure and minimizing atherosclerosis. Patients should make sure cholesterol levels are checked and take medications as prescribed.
Am I At Risk?
Patients with renal impairment, elevated cholesterol, and those with certain autoimmune diseases may be at risk of renal artery disease.
Treatment of Renal Artery Disease
Physicians will use medications to manage blood pressure issues and maximize renal function initially. However, if patients do not respond to medications and have poor blood flow to the kidneys, they may be good candidates for balloon angioplasty or stenting. Both of these measures are endovascular in nature and can be performed as same-day procedures. If these measures fail, an open renal bypass may be necessary.
To learn more about treatment procedures for this condition please visit the following:
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