Glossary of terms

Find more information about some of the medical words and terms you may hear or read relating to kidney conditions in babies, children and young people.

Glossary of terms

Definitions of kidney-related terms

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  • Too much acid in the body; this can happen when the kidneys do not remove enough acid into the urine. May also be called metabolic acidosis

  • Term used for a condition that starts suddenly and that may not last very long

  • Gland that sits on top of each kidney and helps to regulate (control) how it works. “Ad” means near or next to, and “renal” means kidney

  • The most abundant type of protein in the body

  • An abnormal amount of albumin in the urine

  • Medicines that relax blood vessels to reduce blood pressure. They are also called alpha-adrenoceptor-blocking medicines.

  • An accurate way of measuring the level of albuminuria, or albumin in the urine. It compares the amount of albumin to the amount of creatinine in a urine sample

  • Use of medicines (anaesthetics) to avoid feeling pain

  • Measuring blood pressure when you are moving around; this may be done in your home

  • A condition where the kidneys suddenly stop working properly. This can happen over a period of a few days or a few weeks. In some children it can be very serious

  • Medicine that is given to avoid feeling pain – this includes local anaesethetics, which are applied to a particular site on the body, and general anaesthesia, which makes a patient go to sleep to avoid feeling pain anywhere in the body

  • Medicines that relax blood vessels to reduce blood pressure; may also be called angiotensin II receptor antagonists

  • Medicines that relax blood vessels to reduce blood pressure

  • A type of medicine to treat bacterial infections.

  • Proteins that are made in the body to destroy bacteria and viruses; they are part of the immune system

  • A hormone that controls how much urine the body makes. ADH is carried in the blood to the cells in the kidneys. When a lot of ADH is released, the kidneys re-absorb (take back) more water. This means there is less water in the urine, and so it is more concentrated.

  • Passing no urine

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • One of two types of blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the body

  • Abnormal heartbeat

  • When the immune system is not working properly and can start to damage parts of the body

  • Medicines that make the heart beat more slowly and with less force, to reduce blood pressure. They may also be called beta-adrenoceptor-blocking medicines

  • A type of mineral, or electrolyte, in the body that indicates the amount of acid in the body, or the pH balance

  • A procedure in which a small piece of an organ, such as the kidney, is removed from the body and examined

  • The area where a needle is inserted during a kidney biopsy

  • A shortage of red blood cells in the body, measured as haemoglobin levels or red blood cell count.

  • A flexible plastic tube used to enter the inside of the body. Different types of catheter may be used for dialysis or to drain urine from the bladder.

  • Present for a long time. In Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), for at least 3 months. CKD can be mild or severe depending on the kidney function.

  • How efficient the body is at getting rid of waste products. Clearance is one of the main functions of the kidneys. In CKD, clearance is reduced and waste products can build up in the blood.

  • A waste product produced by the muscles. The higher the blood creatinine level, the worse the kidneys are working. The blood creatinine level is used to calculate the eGFR, an estimate of kidney function.

  • Abbreviation for a computerised tomography scan. An X-ray test that produces cross sectional images of the inside of the body.

  • An artificial process to remove waste products and excess water from the body. This can be directly from the blood, as in haemodialysis, or from the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneal dialysis). It usually needs to be performed several times each week over several hours.

  • A person who donates (gives) an organ to another person (the recipient).

  • When a person has permanent kidney disease that is so severe that they can only survive long term with dialysis or a kidney transplant.

  • A hormone made by healthy kidneys, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Chronic kidney disease can result in a lack of erythropoietin and low red blood cells (anaemia). Artificial erythropoietin medicine is available.

  • Measurement of kidney function, calculated from the blood level of creatinine. The lower the eGFR, the worse the kidney function.

  • An enlarged vein, usually at the wrist or elbow, that gives access to the blood stream for haemodialysis. The fistula is created by a surgeon in a minor operation. This increases the flow of blood through the vein and causes it to enlarge, making it suitable for haemodialysis needles.

  • A form of dialysis in which the blood is taken outside the body, and cleaned by a dialysis machine and returned back to the person. Haemodialysis sessions may last 3-5 hours, and sessions are usually needed three times a week.

  • A substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. A low Hb level indicates anaemia.

  • A chemical messenger that travels around the body in the blood and controls how other parts of the body work.

  • A doctor who specialises in kidney disease, dialysis and transplantation.

  • The space inside the abdomen. The peritoneal cavity contains the abdominal organs, including the stomach, liver and bowels. It normally contains only about 100ml of liquid, but expands easily to provide a reservoir for the dialysis fluid to act in peritoneal dialysis.

  • A form of dialysis in which a special PD fluid is placed inside the peritoneal cavity. Waste product from the body leaks into the PD fluid which is then drained out. PD helps to remove waste products and excess fluid that build up in your body when your kidneys stop working.

  • One of the important minerals that is present in the blood, and is usually kept in a stable amount by normal working kidneys. Either too much or too little potassium can be dangerous.

  • A kidney removed from one person (the donor) and given to another person (the recipient). Transplant kidneys may come from a donor who has died (a deceased donor), or from a living donor.

  • A surgeon specialising in the kidneys and bladder.

  • Blood vessels which carry blood from the body back to the heart.

  • A lot of food, especially meat, contains protein. Adequate protein intake is important for growth and to make important parts of the body such as muscles. Protein is broken down into a waste chemical called urea, which is removed by the kidneys.

  • Cells in the blood which carry oxygen from the lungs around the body. Also known as erythrocytes.

  • Relating to the kidneys.

  • A mineral that is important throughout the body, especially in bones. The level of calcium in blood may be low in in people who do not have enough calcium in their diet, with low vitamin D levels, or with acute kidney injury or advanced chronic kidney disease as they fail to produce enough activated vitamin D.

  • Life supporting treatments for kidney failure, including all forms of dialysis and also kidney transplantation.

  • The liquid produced by the kidneys, consisting of the toxic waste products and excess water from the body.

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