Ectopic Kidney - Ways It Can Be Diagnosed!

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, DM - Nephrology, DNB Nephrology, MRCP - Nephrology
Nephrologist, Hyderabad  •  18years experience
Ectopic Kidney - Ways It Can Be Diagnosed!

You should be aware of a certain condition in which the kidney is located below, above or opposite to its usual position. This is a congenital defect, which occurs when the kidney of the fetus does not move to its designated position during the stage of fetal development. In many cases, instead of moving up to its assigned position, one of the kidneys is located very close to the urinary bladder and pelvis. At times, the kidney may move upwards excessively or go to the opposite side to fuse with the other kidney.

An ectopic kidney occurs during the process of fetal development. The term ectopic refers to an out-of-place organ. When one kidney stays in the pelvis, moves upward to fuse with the second kidney, or moves higher than its normal position, ectopic kidney is formed. This defect in movement may occur due to genetic defects, defects in the kidney tissue, exposure of mother to certain drugs and chemicals during pregnancy or a certain illness, which leads to kidney defects in the developing baby. An underdeveloped kidney bud is another likely cause.

Patients with ectopic kidneys might suffer from urinary tract infection (UTI) and kidney stones, which may lead to symptoms such as fever and abdominal pain. Vesicoureteric reflux is present in some people where the urine may flow back to the kidney from the bladder causing infections. Urinary track anomalies, skeletal malformation and reproductive disorders may also be observed.


  • Prenatal sonography helps in detecting ectopic kidneys during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Ultrasound may be used for obtaining an image of the kidneys.
  • Intravenous pyelogram or IVP involves an X-ray of the urinary tract. This is obtained after injecting a dye into the patient, which travels to the kidneys via the urinary tract.
  • Radionuclide scan involves the injection of low dosage chemicals into the patient for identification of the path of chemical in the kidneys. Any blockage in the ureters is detected.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans involve the use of magnets and radio waves for obtaining images of the kidneys.
  • Voiding Cystourethrogram or VCUG involves the injection of a contrast dye into the bladder, after which an X-ray is performed.

Generally, if no symptoms are experienced, then no treatment is required for ectopic kidneys. The associated conditions such as kidney stones, backflow of urine, urine accumulation and cross fused kidneys require surgical treatment.  Ectopic kidneys occur before birth, which usually do not cause much harm, but in case of associated conditions, you must consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis of the problem and its treatment.

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