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Polycystic kidney disease
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Polycystic kidney disease

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Polycystic kidney disease is a disorder in which many clusters of cysts develop primarily within your kidneys. Cysts are noncancerous (benign), round sacs that contain water-like fluid. They vary in size from tiny sacs to sacs large enough to hold several quarts of fluid.

Having a benign kidney cyst is common. A benign, simple kidney cyst doesn't require treatment. And having one or more kidney cysts doesn't mean you have polycystic kidney disease.

Screening and diagnosis

Several diagnostic methods are available to detect the size and number of cysts as well as to evaluate the amount of healthy kidney tissue.

  • Ultrasound examination. This is the most common diagnostic method. A wand-like device called a transducer is placed on your body. It emits inaudible sound waves that are reflected back to the transducer — like sonar. A computer translates those reflected sound waves into a moving image of your kidneys.

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. As you lie on a movable table, you're guided into a big doughnut-shaped device that passes very thin X-ray beams through your body. Your doctor is able to see your kidneys in two-dimensional "slices."

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. As you lie inside a large cylinder, magnetic fields and radio waves generate cross-sectional views of your kidneys.

  • Genetic testing. Gene linkage analysis involves special blood tests for you and for at least three family members who are known either to have or not to have polycystic kidney disease. Then, the results of your blood tests are compared with the results of the tests of your family members. Because this test is so expensive, it's often only used when one family member is considering donating a kidney to another family member.

 

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Last Modified : 03/15/08 01:52 AM