Horseshoe Kidney

What is Horseshoe Kidney?

Most of us have two kidneys that are located on either side of the spine. The formation of these kidneys happens inside the womb of a mother. During the formation of a baby in the uterus, the kidneys are first formed in the abdominal area and they gradually drift upwards to reach the final position on either side of the spine, as the baby grows in the womb. But in some cases, this process might become defective, leading instead to the formation of a single fused kidney in the shape of a horseshoe. This condition is called horseshoe kidney disease. The phenomenon is relatively rare, that affects 0.2 percent of children globally and is more seen in male children than in female children. To understand how the defect affects you, it is imperative to know the function of kidneys. Kidneys, two ureters, a bladder and a urethra together comprise of an excretory system in human anatomy. The job of your kidneys is to filter out waste from the blood supplied to it and to excrete it from the body. Every day, your kidneys process around 140 liters of blood, to produce around a liter of urine!

The waste that gets collected in the kidneys drops down to the bladder through the ureters and is flushed out through the urethra. In short, the function of the kidneys is to remove wastes in the form of urine, balance the levels of fluids, regulate blood pressure, control the count of red blood corpuscles, balance the levels of electrolytes of Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and other acids.


The symptoms of horseshoe kidney are:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pain in the belly and abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Kidney stones
  • Hematuria
  • Flank pain


The causes for the formation of horseshoe kidney are unknown because the formation is during the organogenesis stage of development of a baby in the womb.



The risk factors for horseshoe kidney are:

  • Problems in the cardiovascular system
  • Problems in central nervous system
  • Issues with genitourinary system
  • Hydronephrosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Wilm’s tumor
  • Renal cancer
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Spina bifida


Because the defect is congenital, there could be nothing that you do, to prevent the formation of horseshoe kidney.

How is it diagnosed?

Various imaging tests are used to diagnose horseshoe kidneys. The most common diagnostic tools used are:


How is it treated?

Although there is no cure for horseshoe kidney, symptoms may be treated through supportive treatment if they occur. In case of absence of symptoms, treatments may not be required because those with horseshoe kidney are susceptible to medical renal..

  • Antibiotics

    They are used to treat underlying infections.

  • Surgical intervention

    It is used to treat kidney stones. Surgical procedures may also be needed to treat obstruction- blockage of flow of urine or vesicoureteral reflux- backward flow of urine from the bladder.

When do I contact the doctor?

The existence of horseshoe kidneys might go unnoticed and can be detected when you are diagnosed for other problems related to the kidneys. In case you have issues like kidney stones, urinary tract infections and blood in urine.

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