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General Medical Questions
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Question : I recently had an abdominal ultrasound and it showed I had a 'sponge kidney.' What does this mean?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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May 16, 2012
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A:

The full medical name for this finding is "medullary sponge kidney." The term was coined because the cysts that form in the middle of one or both kidneys make the kidney look like a sponge. The good news is that most people with medullary sponge kidneys have no symptoms and their kidneys remain fully functional throughout life.

The three problems associated with medullary sponge kidney are:

  • Kidney stones
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Bloody urine, called hematuria. Usually the amount of blood is small and can only be seen under a microscope.

Typically, this condition is found in people between the ages of 20 to 40. Men and women are affected equally. But women have more problems with kidney stones and urinary tract infections than men.

Sponge kidneys may sometimes have a genetic basis. So they can happen in other family members.

There is no known prevention for the changes that were seen on your ultrasound.

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