What Is Inflammation of the Renal Pelvis?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2016
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Inflammation of the renal pelvis, also known as pyelonephritis, is characterized by swelling and irritation of the portion of the kidney that funnels urine into the tube known as the ureter. From the ureter, the urine is transported to the bladder in preparation for elimination from the body. The chief cause of pyelonephritis is a bacterial infection that can lead to permanent kidney damage if left untreated. Symptoms of this inflammation often include pain, fever, and nausea. Treatment options for this condition may include antibiotics, pain medications, and the use of a heating pad.

Urinary tract infections are quite common, especially among women, and can lead to inflammation as the bacteria spread throughout the urinary system. Pain in the lower back, side, and abdomen is often the first symptom of pyelonephritis and may be accompanied by a burning or stinging sensation when urinating. A person with this condition may feel an almost constant need to urinate, even when the bladder is essentially empty.

Fever and chills may sometimes occur as a result of pyelonephritis. Nausea and vomiting are relatively common symptoms as well. Urine tests may reveal the presence of blood, pus, and an elevated amount of white blood cells. Occasionally, the patient may notice a small amount of blood after urinating.


Antibiotics are the standard treatment for inflammation of the renal pelvis. Due to the potential severity of this type of infection, these antibiotics may need to be taken for several weeks. In the more severe cases, intensive antibiotic therapy in a hospital setting may be required. Without proper treatment, permanent kidney damage may occur, leading to the eventual need for dialysis or transplant. If the infection moves into the bloodstream, it can cause a potentially fatal blood infection known as sepsis.

Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications may be needed to control the discomfort associated with pyelonephritis. This pain can range from mildly irritating to severely debilitating. If damage to the kidneys has occurred, the types of pain medications used may be limited. A heating pad placed on the affected kidney for about 15 minutes at a time may help to relieve discomfort as well. A doctor should be consulted with any specific questions or concerns about inflammation of the renal pelvis or the most appropriate treatment options for an individual situation.


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