ID: 251
Category: Nephrology
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 24 May 2023
updatedon: 24 May 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published May 24, 2023
Updated May 24, 2023

Table of contents

Renal Artery Stenosis

Etymology and Pronunciation

renal (REE-nuhl)
renes - Latin for "kidneys"

artery (AHR-tuh-ree)
arteria - Greek prefix for "windpipe" or "air hose"

stenosis (STEN-oh-sis)
stenos - Greek for "narrow"

History of Renal Artery Stenosis

Early diagnostic tests for RAS relied on invasive techniques such as angiography or surgery, which were risky and had limited availability.

The widespread use of non-invasive imaging techniques such as ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) led to improved diagnosis of RAS. These imaging modalities enabled the detection of stenotic lesions in the renal arteries, so that patients could receive appropriate treatment to reduce their blood pressure and protect their kidneys.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) are more recently developed imaging technologies that have also been used to diagnose RAS. These technologies use powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the body's organs and blood vessels without exposing patients to ionizing radiation.

Modern Understanding of Renal Artery Stenosis

Renal artery stenosis is a condition where the arteries that supply blood to your kidneys are narrowed or blocked. This can cause problems with how your kidneys function and may lead to high blood pressure.

Your kidneys are important organs that help to filter waste products from your blood and regulate the balance of fluids in your body. They need a constant supply of blood to function properly. If the blood flow to your kidneys is reduced by narrowing or blockage in the renal arteries, it can cause them to work less efficiently.

Renal artery stenosis is most commonly caused by a build-up of plaque, similar to what can occur in other blood vessels in the body. This can happen as a result of age, smoking, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels.

Symptoms of renal artery stenosis can vary depending on the severity of the condition. In some cases, it may not cause any noticeable symptoms. If the blockage is severe enough, it can cause high blood pressure or kidney failure. Some people may experience symptoms such as swelling in the legs, difficulty breathing, or nausea.

Diagnosing renal artery stenosis usually involves a combination of blood tests, imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI, and a physical exam.

Causes of Renal Artery Stenosis

The most common cause of renal artery stenosis is atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries.

Here are some factors that contribute to the development of renal artery stenosis:

- Atherosclerosis: The deposition of fatty substances, cholesterol, and other substances on the inner walls of the arteries can lead to the narrowing of the renal arteries. Atherosclerosis is a progressive condition and can affect arteries throughout the body, including the renal arteries.
- Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD): This is a less common cause of renal artery stenosis. FMD is a condition in which the walls of the arteries within the body, including the renal arteries, develop abnormal fibrous and muscular tissue. These abnormal tissues can cause the artery to narrow or form aneurysms.
- Blood clots or emboli: Blood clots or emboli that travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the renal artery can obstruct blood flow and cause stenosis.
- Compression or external pressure: Sometimes, structures outside the renal artery can compress or put pressure on the artery, leading to narrowing. This can occur due to conditions such as tumors or abdominal aortic aneurysms.
- Congenital abnormalities: In rare cases, individuals may be born with abnormalities or malformations in the renal arteries, which can predispose them to renal artery stenosis.

Several risk factors increase the likelihood of developing renal artery stenosis, including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and a family history of cardiovascular disease.

It's important to note that renal artery stenosis can lead to reduced blood flow to the kidneys, which triggers a cascade of events, including the activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and the release of various hormones that can further exacerbate high blood pressure and kidney damage.

Treatments for Renal Artery Stenosis

Treatment options for renal artery stenosis vary depending on the severity of the condition and the presence of additional health problems.

- Medications: Medications can help to reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels in individuals with renal artery stenosis. These medications may include beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and statins.
- Angioplasty and stenting: In some cases, a minimally invasive procedure called angioplasty and stenting may be recommended. This involves inserting a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into the artery to inflate a balloon and then placing a wire mesh tube (stent) to keep the artery open.
- Surgery: In certain situations, surgery may be necessary to remove the blockage or bypass the narrowed artery.
- Lifestyle changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help to improve outcomes and reduce complications associated with renal artery stenosis. Such changes may include losing weight, quitting smoking, and following a healthy diet.

Lifestyle Changes

While lifestyle changes alone may not cure the condition, they can play a crucial role in managing the symptoms and reducing the risk of complications. Here are some lifestyle changes that may be beneficial:

- Quit smoking: Smoking has a detrimental effect on blood vessels and can worsen the progression of atherosclerosis. Quitting smoking is essential for overall cardiovascular health and can help slow down the narrowing of the renal arteries.
- Adopt a healthy diet: Following a balanced and nutritious diet can have a positive impact on your overall health, including your cardiovascular system. Focus on consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit your intake of sodium, saturated fats, and processed foods. It may also be beneficial to reduce your intake of cholesterol and animal fats, as they can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the strain on your cardiovascular system. Losing excess weight can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall vascular health. Talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance on weight management.
- Engage in regular physical activity: Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining cardiovascular health. It can help improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and manage weight. Consult your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your condition.
- Manage stress: Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure and negatively impact your overall well-being. Explore stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that help you relax and unwind.
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol: If you have renal artery stenosis, it's important to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for medications, lifestyle modifications, and regular monitoring of these parameters.


Decreased or loss of kidney function
Decreased urine output
Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
High blood pressure
Muscle Weakness
Abdominal pain

Confirmation Tests

- Renal arteriography
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
- Computed tomography angiography (CTA)
- Ultrasound (Renal Doppler)
- Duplex ultrasound

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