Nephrologists (doctors in renal medicine) diagnose and treat diseases of the kidneys. Because the kidney performs so many critical functions, nephrologists maintain expertise in primary kidney disorders, but also the management of the systemic consequences of kidney dysfunction. Although the prevention and identification and management of early kidney disease is a large part of general internal medicine practice, nephrologists are usually called upon to assist and manage more complex or advanced nephrologic disorders.

Nature of the work

General nephrology includes the management of patients with diseases which affect the kidney.

Diseases that affect the kidney include:

  • Auto-immune disorders (where the body attacks its own tissues) such as systemic lupus erythematosus (causing inflammation of the connective tissue)  or vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)
  •  Diabetes
  •  Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Nephrologists treat conditions such as:

  • Congenital and genetic disorders, eg autosomal dominant inherited polycystic kidney disease (an inherited condition in whuch fliud-filled cysts develop and grow in both kidneys) and  familial nephropathy (inherited kidney disease)
  • Autoimmune disorders, eg acute glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the glomeruli, the filtering units of the kidneys)
  • Malfunctions caused by impaired blood supply, eg acute tubular necrosis (a condition causing the death of kidney tissue cells)
  • Resistant hypertension
  • Kidney infections
  • Metabolic disorders, eg cystinuria (an inherited disorder leading to the formation of stones in the kidneys, ureters and bladder)
  • Tumours of the kidney
  • Renal failure due to external factors, eg crushing accidents

Common procedures/interventions

These include:

  • Renal biopsy
  • The insertion of temporary vascular (vein) access for haemodialysis (the removal of waste material from the blood of a patient with renal failure, using an artificial kidney)
  • The insertion of tunnelled catheters (thin flexible tube) for haemodialysis vascular access
  • The insertion of peritoneal dialysis catheters (thin flexible tube that allows dialysis fliud to enter the abdominal cavity and then drain back again)
  • Haemodialysis
  • Peritoneal dialysis
  • Transplantation
  • Academic nephrology
  • Vasculitis
  • Acute kidney injury (AKI)
  • Hypertension