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Acute tubular necrosis

  • Definition

    Acute tubular necrosis is a kidney disorder involving damage to the tubule cells of the kidneys, resulting in acute kidney failure.


    Alternative Names

    Necrosis - renal tubular; ATN; Necrosis - acute tubular


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Acute tubular necrosis (ATN) is caused by lack of oxygen to the kidney tissues (ischemia of the kidneys).

    The internal structures of the kidney, particularly the tissues of the kidney tubule, become damaged or destroyed. ATN is one of the most common structural changes that can lead to acute renal failure.

    ATN is one of the most common causes of kidney failure in hospitalized patients. Risks for acute tubular necrosis include:

    • Blood transfusion reaction
    • Injury or trauma that damages the muscles
    • Recent major surgery
    • Septic shock or other forms of shock
    • Severe low blood pressure (hypotension) that lasts longer than 30 minutes

    Liver disease and kidney damage caused by diabetes (diabetic nephropathy) may make a person more susceptible to the condition.

    ATN can be caused by:

    • Exposure to medications that are toxic to the kidneys (such as aminoglycoside antibiotics)
    • Antifungal agents (such as amphotericin)
    • Dye used for x-ray (radiographic) studies