What is emphysematous pyelonephritis?

Updated: Jul 01, 2021
  • Author: Tibor Fulop, MD, PhD, FACP, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Emphysematous pyelonephritis, which most commonly occurs in persons with diabetes, is a severe, necrotizing form of acute multifocal bacterial nephritis with extension of the infection through the renal capsule. This leads to the presence of gas within the kidney substance and in the perinephric space. Persons with diabetes (with or without obstruction) account for 85-100% of cases, although some cases have occurred in patients without diabetes who had obstruction. Females outnumber males (2-6:1).

Emphysematous pyelonephritis occurs in the left kidney in approximately two thirds of cases. The etiology is usually Enterobacteriaceae (E coli, 60%), with some reported cases of Streptococcus species and Candida species. A triad of diabetes, obstruction, and remote or recent pyelonephritis should raise clinical suspicion. Patient presentation includes fever, chills, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, flank pain, flank mass (50%), crepitation (over thigh or flank), urinary symptoms, and pyuria.

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