Kidney Dysplasia

Kidney dysplasia is a disorder in which one or both of a fetus' kidneys do not adequately form while it is still in the womb.

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Normally, two muscular tubes called ureters grow into the kidneys and split out to produce a network of smaller tubes called tubules. The tubules collect urine as the baby develops in the womb. When a person has kidney dysplasia, the tubules don't branch out enough. This can cause an obstruction in the tubules, so urine that would normally flow through them has nowhere to go. When a kidney is damaged, urine can accumulate inside the organ, creating cysts. As a result, normal kidney tissue is replaced by cysts, causing the kidney to stop functioning.

Kidney dysplasia may develop as a result of inherited causes. It can also be caused by genetic syndromes affecting more than one body part.

Experts say that about 1 in 4,000 babies are born with kidney dysplasia. About half of the babies with this condition also have other problems with their urinary tract.

Infants born with only one kidney affected by dysplasia show no symptoms at all. In some circumstances, the damaged kidney at birth may be swollen and painful. Other non-specific symptoms include:

  • having blood in the urine 
  • high blood pressure, and 
  • urinary tract infections. 

A baby born with unilateral kidney dysplasia may also have additional abnormalities in the urinary system. Hydronephrosis can occur when the kidneys and ureters expand due to a buildup of urine caused by obstructions elsewhere in the urinary tract. Hydronephrosis can impair a kidney's ability to filter blood if left untreated. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and renal failure are possible kidney injury outcomes.

Using a fetal ultrasound, also called a fetal sonogram, a doctor may be able to find out if a pregnant woman's baby has kidney dysplasia.

Although doctors do not always find kidney dysplasia in babies before they are born, it is often found when the child is checked for a urinary tract infection (UTI) or another health problem.


No therapy may be required if the dysplasia affects one kidney and there are no other symptoms of renal dysplasia. However, the infant has to receive routine checks that include the following:

  • Blood pressure check-up
  • Renal function testing by blood analysis
  • Albumin levels. A high albumin level may indicate renal disease due to kidney dysplasia. Albumin is a protein often found in the blood that can also be detected in the urine.
  • Ultrasonography. An ultrasound checks on the injured kidney at regular intervals to ensure the growth of a healthy kidney.

Researchers have not yet found a way to prevent kidney dysplasia caused by genetic factors or certain genetic syndromes. Avoiding certain drugs and illicit substances during pregnancy can protect a fetus from developing renal dysplasia. 

Before taking any medicine during pregnancy, women should consult with their doctor.



National Institute of Diabetes and Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney DIseases2022). Kleine-Levin Syndrome. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from


Urology Care Foundation (2022). What is Kidney (Renal) Dysplasia and Cystic Disease? Retrieved December 19, 2022, from

Last Updated: February 21, 2024