Children's Hospital Colorado

Nephrotoxicity (Kidney Drug Toxicity)

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What is nephrotoxicity?

Nephrotoxicity describes the process that occurs when kidneys are damaged by a drug, chemical or toxin, resulting in possible chronic kidney disease. This toxicity affects the many small functional parts of the kidneys called nephrons, damaging the kidney and reducing its effectiveness to filter blood and remove waste from your child’s body.

What causes pediatric nephrotoxicity?

Nephrotoxicity can be caused by chemicals, different kinds of medications and chemotherapy. Many medications, even when taken at modest doses or only occasionally, can damage the kidneys. This damage can be short-lived and at least partially reversible, in which case it is referred to as acute kidney injury (AKI). If the damage is more gradual and irreversible, causing chronic (long-term) changes, it is referred to as chronic kidney disease (CKD). There are multiple ways in which medications can cause nephrotoxicity: drugs can affect the blood supply to the kidneys, damage certain parts of the nephrons (filtering units of the kidneys) or cause allergic reactions that damage the kidneys.

Who gets nephrotoxicity?

Nephrotoxicity can occur in any individual who takes medications and can affect individuals of all ages, genders and ethnicities.

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