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Chapter: Medical Physiology: Kidney Diseases and Diuretics

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Injury to the Renal Interstitium as a Cause of Chronic Renal Failure- Pyelonephritis

Primary or secondary disease of the renal interstitium is referred to as interstitial nephritis.

Injury to the Renal Interstitium as a Cause of Chronic Renal Failure- Pyelonephritis

Primary or secondary disease of the renal interstitium is referred to as interstitial nephritis. In general, this can result from vascular, glomerular, or tubular damage that destroys individual nephrons, or it can involve primary damage to the renal interstitium by poisons, drugs, and bacterial infections.

Renal interstitial injury caused by bacterial infec-tion is called pyelonephritis. The infection can result from different types of bacteria but especially from Escherichia coli that originate from fecal contaminationof the urinary tract. These bacteria reach the kidneys either by way of the blood stream or, more commonly, by ascension from the lower urinary tract by way of the ureters to the kidneys.

Although the normal bladder is able to clear bacteria readily, there are two general clinical conditions that may interfere with the normal flushing of bacteria from the bladder: (1) the inability of the bladder to empty completely, leaving residual urine in the bladder, and (2) the existence of obstruction of urine outflow. With impaired ability to flush bacteria from the bladder, the bacteria multiply and the bladder becomes inflamed, a condition termed cystitis. Once cystitis has occurred, it may remain localized without ascending to the kidney, or in some people, bacteria may reach the renal pelvis because of a pathological condition in which urine is propelled up one or both of the ureters during micturi-tion. This condition is called vesicoureteral reflux and is due to the failure of the bladder wall to occlude the ureter during micturition; as a result, some of the urine is propelled upward toward the kidney, carrying with it bacteria that can reach the renal pelvis and renal medulla, where they can initiate the infection and inflammation associated with pyelonephritis.

Pyelonephritis begins in the renal medulla and there-fore usually affects the function of the medulla more than it affects the cortex, at least in the initial stages. Because one of the primary functions of the medulla is to provide the countercurrent mechanism for concen-trating urine, patients with pyelonephritis frequently have markedly impaired ability to concentrate the urine.

With long-standing pyelonephritis, invasion of the kidneys by bacteria not only causes damage to the renal medulla interstitium but also results in progressive damage of renal tubules, glomeruli, and other structures throughout the kidney. Consequently, large parts of functional renal tissue are lost, and chronic renal failure can develop.


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