The response of the fetal kidney to obstruction

Craig A Peters, M. C. Carr, A. Lais, A. B. Retik, J. Mandell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


In a fetal ovine model the renal effects of different anatomic levels of fetal urinary obstruction were studied. Parameters of prenatal renal growth and differentiation were characterized and correlated with the patterns of renal response to in utero obstruction. Complete ureteral or urethral obstruction was produced in the sheep fetus at 55 to 60 days of gestation. Animals were delivered and sacrificed at near term (140 days), and the kidneys were removed and prepared for analysis. Parameters examined included weight, histology, glomerular number and total surface area, as well as urinary sodium, creatinine, osmolarity and N-acetyl glucosaminidase. Three patterns of response were identified, producing hydronephrotic, cystic or dysgenetic kidneys. Hydronephrotic kidneys were usually the result of bladder outlet obstruction or ureteral obstruction with spontaneous urinary decompression. These kidneys were large (20.7 gm. versus normal 10.8 gm., p <0.0001), with thinning of cortical parenchyma that was structurally intact. Glomerular number and surface area were normal. Cystic kidneys were large (14.2 gm., p <0.05) with grossly visible cysts and an effaced medulla. Cortical structure was distorted by cysts but basic elements were intact. Glomerular number and surface area were not reduced. Dysgenetic kidneys were small (3.9 gm., p <0.0001) with markedly abnormal cortical structure and little recognizable medulla. Histological elements similar to fetal structures were present, including cuboidal/columnar tubular epithelium and peritubular mesenchymal collars. Glomerular number and surface area were significantly less than normal (p <0.001). The kidneys contralateral to unilaterally obstructed kidneys were significantly larger than normal (16.2 gm., p <0.0001), with normal histology, glomerular number and surface area, indicating in utero contralateral renal hypertrophy. Urinary sodium was variably affected in the hydronephrotic kidneys and was identical to plasma in the dysgenetic kidneys. These results indicate the technical feasibility of in utero models of urinary obstruction. Renal growth and patterns of differentiation were markedly affected by in utero obstruction. They should be a major focus in the investigation of congenital obstructive uropathy, since normal processes of renal growth and differentiation form the basis for postnatal function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-509
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - 1992


  • animals, laboratory
  • hydronephrosis
  • kidney

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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