Failure to Diagnose Kidney Failure

Problems with kidneys can be difficult to diagnose until they are quite advanced. Sometimes the kidney failure symptoms are there but not recognised or not treated seriously enough.

Finding out that you are suffering with kidney failure and that your treating doctor could have done something to assist you but failed to do so, will be extremely frustrating and disappointing for you.

We can help you to understand if the medical professionals who treated you were negligent or not, and if they were help you to decide if you would like to make a claim for medical negligence.

What is kidney failure and why does it happen?

Kidneys help to filter out waste products from your blood. After they have filtered out the waste products, the kidneys turn this waste into urine. Kidney failure is when your kidneys are no longer working properly and therefore cannot filter impurities out from your blood. Often kidney failure is caused by conditions that put a strain on your kidneys such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) are the two main forms of kidney failure. CKD generally develops more slowly than AKI, so that by the time one is diagnosed with CKD the condition can often be quite advanced.

Chronic Kidney Disease
CKD is measured in five stages, with Stage 1 indicating the mildest form of the condition, and Stage 5 the most severe. Usually no symptoms are experienced in stages 1 to 3. Stage 5 CKD (also known as End Stage Renal Failure) means that dialysis and/or transplant surgery is needed. 

If your kidney failure was not diagnosed by your treating doctors either at all or at the time it ought to have been, and you have been diagnosed with Stage 5 CKD then we will discuss with you the possibility that if your diagnosis had been made sooner, Stage 5 CKD may have been delayed (so as to give you more time to find a kidney donor) or avoided altogether.

What are the symptoms of kidney failure?

Your body will be able to work quite well with significantly reduced kidney function and therefore your symptoms may not show up until later on, but they will include:

• Increased need to urinate
• Swollen ankles and feet or hands
• Weight loss 
• Blood or protein in your urine
• High blood pressure
• Muscle cramps
• Nausea
• Men may be unable to maintain an erection

Many of these symptoms can point towards other less serious conditions, but if combined with other factors in your medical history, your GP should be looking to test your kidney function.

Making a missed kidney failure diagnosis claim

Our team of experienced medical negligence solicitors have been helping people like you for many years and we would like the opportunity to help you too. 

We can offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your situation in detail and you are under no obligation to take it any further. All of the options open to you to fund the claim will be explained in detail (including no win, no fee) and we will give you advice about which one we think will work for you the best.

For more information or to speak to one of our friendly team for your free initial consultation, please call 0117 239 8012 or complete our online enquiry form.

Failure to Diagnose Kidney Failure FAQs

  • What is Acute Kidney Injury?

    The recent NHS commissioned study which concluded that thousands of patients are dying each year in our hospitals due to undiagnosed and untreated kidney problems has understandably caused a great furore within the media. To the lay person it seems incomprehensible that NHS patients are dying of Acute Kidney Injury because they are not being given sufficient fluids, but this study (which is co-authored by a Consultant renal physician as well as Insight Health Economics) makes clear that this is exactly what is going on.

    So what is Acute Kidney Injury, or AKI?

    Acute Kidney Injury is the term used to describe a loss of kidney function that sets in over a very short period of time (ie a few days). This is as opposed to Chronic Kidney Injury which develops over a period of many months or indeed years, and which may not lead to any symptoms for the sufferer until the latter stages of the condition.

    There are various different causes of AKI, but here we are concerned with the cause chiefly referred to in the NHS study, namely dehydration brought on by a lack of water/fluids.

    A lack of water intake can lead to a significant decrease in the amount of blood getting to one’s kidneys. If one’s kidneys do not receive enough blood (a condition known as Renal Ischaemia), then the kidneys will stop functioning properly and, ultimately, start to fail.

    How can this condition be left undiagnosed and untreated?

    A failure in hospital nursing care that leads to a patient becoming dehydrated should not be happening, even taking into account the fact that hospitals have to treat a great many elderly and/or otherwise vulnerable patients. However, actually making a diagnosis of Acute Kidney Injury is not as completely straight forward as one might think.

    A diagnosis is usually based upon blood test results which themselves may take a few days to come back from the laboratory (unless requested as an emergency), and by then the patient’s condition may have worsened and the kidney damage caused. In fact, there is no guarantee that the blood tests will indicate AKI at all, as there is a delay of approximately 24 hours between one’s kidneys ceasing to function , and this being shown up on a blood test. However, there are other tests that can and should be carried out to assist with a diagnosis.

    In addition, much can depend on the symptoms being displayed by the patient. Nausea, weakness, vomiting and muscle cramps are all indicative of possible AKI. Nurses and doctors should also take into account the age of the patient, the patient’s prior medical history and what drugs that patient is already taking. For example, a diabetic patient above the age of 70 years who has been taking ibuprofen (known to be harmful to kidneys) for a prolonged period, and who is displaying signs of dehydration should clearly be treated as a medical emergency.

    In Summary

    • Acute Kidney Injury is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs to be treated urgently if long term complications are to be avoided.
    • Nursing staff ought to be well aware of the risk of Acute Kidney Injury to their patients as a result of dehydration, especially where the patient is elderly; has other long term medical problems; is suffering from some sort of infection and/or has recently undergone surgery.
    • A failure by a hospital to provide a patient with adequate fluids so as to keep them properly hydrated is likely to be negligent.

    If you or someone known to you has suffered Acute Kidney Injury whilst in hospital and you would like some further advice from a medical negligence expert, then please contact us today on 0117 239 8012 and ask to speak with a member of our medical negligence team. 

  • What are the symptoms and signs of Kidney Disease?

    Symptoms brought on by deteriorating kidney function can be quite general or alternatively can be specific to the type of kidney disease that a patient is suffering from. More often than not it can be a combination of the two.

    General symptoms

    • Tiredness
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Itchy skin
    • Shortness of breath
    • Muscle cramps

    Specific symptoms

    • Pain in the area of the kidneys (ie lower back; either side of the vertebral column)
    • Blood in the urine
    • Swelling of the face and/or feet

    The above lists identify the most commonly displayed symptoms of kidney disease that the patient can see and/or feel. However, what about when you go to see your GP and a specimen of blood is taken and sent away for testing in a laboratory. What should your GP particularly then be looking out for in the test results?

    Raised sodium or potassium levels: One of the kidneys’ functions is to maintain the right amount of these so called “electrolytes” in your blood stream. If, therefore, your blood test indicates that the levels are higher than would be considered normal, this indicates that you may have a kidney problem.

    Raised Urea levels: Urea is the name given to the substance produced when the body breaks down protein from the food that we eat. Given that one of the most important functions of the kidney is to process urea, if the urea levels in your blood are shown to be high, this is another indicator that your kidneys are not doing their job properly. Further investigations should then be arranged by your treating doctor.

    Your GP should also be concerned with blood pressure, especially where there is a suggestion (eg from the presence of any of the above symptoms and signs) of kidney disease. High blood pressure is another indicator of potential kidney disease.

    The longer that high blood pressure goes untreated (perhaps as a result of a failure by your treating doctor to recognise the problem) then the greater the risk of further damage to the kidneys being caused.

    A significant delay in the treatment of kidney disease by your treating doctors when faced with a combination of the above symptoms is likely to represent negligent medical treatment.

    Please  contact our medical negligence team if you have any questions with regard to this article or if you believe that you or a loved one has suffered as a result of negligent medical advice on 0117 239 8012.

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