A so-called horseshoe kidney always forms when the lower poles of the two kidneys fuse. Already in the womb, the kidneys are created somewhat displaced and no longer resemble the normal development. However, the development of the ureters occurs normally.
What is a horseshoe kidney?
When the two kidneys grow together at the bottom during the development of an embryo in the womb, it is referred to as a so-called horseshoe kidney . Sometimes it can also happen that only part of the kidneys have not grown correctly. The creation of a horseshoe kidney takes place during the embryonic development of pregnancy.
According to abbreviationfinder, it is a congenital kidney malformation that is either genetic or caused by external influences. Corrective interventions during pregnancy cannot be carried out. When a horseshoe kidney develops, the risk is quite high that those affected will suffer more frequently from urinary tract diseases such as various infections in their later lives. Kidney stones can also occur more frequently.
However, many of those affected do not even know that they are living with a horseshoe kidney and were already born, since it does not necessarily cause symptoms. The kidneys can often take over their function completely normally. For this reason, invasive interventions, treatments and therapies are often not necessary. These measures usually only become necessary when symptoms arise.
Horseshoe kidney is a general term used to describe an abnormality in the human kidneys. The causes are genetic defects, i.e. defects at the chromosomal level. Environmental influences may also be responsible for the development of the horseshoe kidney. The horseshoe kidney is present from birth and is already formed during the embryonic phase in the womb.
Both kidneys have grown together at the lower ends. They form the shape of a horseshoe, hence the name horseshoe kidney. This malformation is one of many in the area of the kidneys and, at 15 percent of all kidney malformations, occurs comparatively rarely. Although both kidneys are fused together, they still have separate kidney and blood vessels.
Also, as in people with normally developed kidneys, the urinary ducts are separated from each other. The bladder is also in the normal place. Boys are more likely to be affected by horseshoe kidney defects than girls. Other organ abnormalities often occur in this context.
Due to the fusion of the kidney tissue, the kidneys of those affected are usually completely immobile. This increases the risk of damage to the kidneys in trauma and injuries to the abdomen. Since it can be difficult to show the horseshoe kidney in an imaging procedure, those affected usually never find out about the presence of such a malformation.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
In many cases, those affected by horseshoe kidneys do not show any symptoms during their lifetime. Nevertheless, it can happen that the malformation has an effect on the body and that different symptoms can manifest themselves. The main symptoms of horseshoe kidney include pain and uncomfortable feelings of pressure in the surrounding organs.
The reason for this is the pressure that the malformed kidneys exert on them. It may also lead to disturbances in the gastrointestinal activity of the person concerned. In rare cases, compression of the aorta can also occur. In this case, the symptoms manifest themselves in circulatory disorders in the legs and feet and feelings of numbness.
Compression of the inferior vena cava can also sometimes occur, and varicose veins appear. After many years, various diseases can also develop that can be traced back to the horseshoe kidney. These can be kidney stones or the formation of what is known as a water sac kidney. In addition, a connection between the horseshoe kidney and the development of various tumors, which mainly occur in the neck area, is suspected.
Diagnosis & disease progression
The radiological examination methods provided in urology are used to diagnose horseshoe kidneys. These are the usual sonography, i.e. the ultrasound examination, urography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Most of the time, the presence of a horseshoe kidney is harmless.
Therapy is not necessary in most cases. Disorders of the urinary flow, infections or kidney stones can occur. In these cases, therapy for the horseshoe kidney must be started. It is of great importance that children with this kidney malformation have an increased risk of developing malignant kidney tumors. In concrete terms, this risk is six times higher than in those who are not affected.
A horseshoe kidney does not necessarily have to lead to severe symptoms or complications. In many cases, the patient has no symptoms and therefore no complications. In this case, no direct treatment of the horseshoe kidney is necessary. However, it can also lead to uncomfortable feelings of pressure in the abdomen of the patient.
The kidneys can also move the surrounding organs or have a negative effect on them in general. The gastrointestinal tract is also often disturbed by the horseshoe kidney and does not function properly. Disorders of blood circulation often lead to cramps or numbness. These often lead to a severe restriction of movement.
The risk of tumors is also greatly increased by the disease, so that the patient usually has to be examined more often. The horseshoe kidney is diagnosed relatively early and quickly, so that early treatment can be initiated. If symptoms arise, the horseshoe kidney can be treated surgically or removed completely. There are no further complications. Life expectancy is also not restricted or reduced by consistent treatment.
When should you go to the doctor?
A horseshoe kidney often causes no symptoms and therefore does not require medical treatment. However, if symptoms such as severe pain, an unpleasant feeling of pressure in the abdominal smoke or disturbances in the gastrointestinal activity occur, a doctor’s visit is recommended. Medical advice is required for circulatory disorders in the legs and numbness in the limbs. Compression of the aorta may be the cause, which if left untreated can lead to serious complications.
At the latest when varicose veins or signs of a water sac kidney are noticed, you should speak to your family doctor or a nephrologist. People suffering from cancer should discuss the above symptoms with their doctor. A horseshoe kidney usually occurs in connection with a genetic defect. Parents of children who have been diagnosed with such a defect should pay particular attention to any noticeable symptoms. If in doubt, the child must be examined by a specialist. If the symptoms are severe, it is best to call the rescue service or take the child to a specialist clinic.
Treatment & Therapy
As a standard, malformations of the kidneys such as the horseshoe kidney are treated surgically if symptoms occur or other symptoms and physical impairments occur. Surgery is sometimes needed in children when the kidneys are causing severe pain at the adhesions due to congestion.
In this case, the intervention is then carried out directly at this point. The kidneys are fixed in a normal position. In rare cases, horseshoe kidneys can also lead to kidney dysfunction, which can then have a significant impact on the patient’s health. In this case, the affected half of the kidney or part of it is surgically removed. This is known in technical terms as a heminephrectomy.
Outlook & Forecast
If there are no other impairments or disorders, the prognosis of a horseshoe kidney is favorable. Many patients do not experience any health problems or secondary diseases throughout their lives as a result of the altered tissue structure. The kidneys perform a comparable work as in a healthy person. There is also no reduction in lifespan.
However, some sufferers of horseshoe kidney have a poorer prognosis. Due to the anomaly of the organ, there is an increased risk of developing more urinary tract infections in the course of life. Although these can be diagnosed quickly and are easy to treat, health and well-being are repeatedly impaired.
If left untreated, inflammation in the organism can spread unhindered in these patients. In addition, organ damage to the kidneys can develop. The failure of the kidneys becomes more likely. This threatens the need for a donor organ and a potential threat to life.
Medical care is intended to prevent further diseases or permanent damage to the kidneys. In severe cases, a tumor develops. Patients with a horseshoe kidney are generally at an increased risk of developing a kidney tumor. If it is not recognized early and removed completely, the affected person may die prematurely.
In principle, no preventive measures can be taken against the formation of a horseshoe kidney. Since it is a congenital defect based on genetic causes or embryonic development disorders, it is not possible to counteract the formation of a horseshoe kidney during pregnancy.
In most cases, the aftercare measures for a horseshoe kidney are severely limited. The person concerned is dependent on immediate treatment if the disease also leads to other complaints in the other internal organs of the person concerned. It cannot generally be predicted whether the horseshoe kidney will lead to a reduced life expectancy of the patient.
The focus is therefore on early detection of the disease, with the horseshoe kidney ideally being detected directly in the womb. Treatment of this disease occurs only when the disease affects certain functions of the body. Therefore, affected parents should have their children regularly examined by a doctor to identify all bodily functions.
The treatment is carried out by means of a surgical procedure, which usually proceeds without complications and alleviates the symptoms of the horseshoe kidney. After the procedure, the child should definitely rest and not strain. Stressful or physical activities should also be avoided. If the disease is treated early, there are usually no complications or reduced life expectancy. In some cases, the disease can increase the risk of ureteral infections, so these are particularly important to avoid.
You can do that yourself
The classic horseshoe kidney is often not pathological, but is classified as an anatomical peculiarity. Many sufferers have no symptoms, or only get them late in life. In other cases, the presence of the horseshoe kidney can lead to functional disorders. The kidney function can be disturbed in such a way that there can be problems with urine drainage and drainage, for example.
Anyone who is affected by a horseshoe kidney should have regular check-ups with their doctor. In this way, possible complications can be recognized and treated at an early stage. People who are equipped with this anatomical peculiarity can also pay particular attention to the health of their kidneys. A lifestyle that does not overload the kidneys is highly recommended. Those affected can, for example, avoid excessive consumption of meat, especially very fatty meat. Toxins such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine should also be avoided, as most of their substances are filtered out of the body via the kidneys. Also taking painkillers such as headache medication or anti-inflammatories should be done very consciously and only when actually necessary. All of these substances place an above-average burden on the kidneys.
If you want to take care of your health, you should drink a lot. Two to three liters of water, tea or other unsweetened drinks have a positive effect on kidney function.