Nephroptosis: Causes, diagnosis, and treatment


Nephroptosis is a rare condition where a person’s kidney drops down into the pelvis when they stand up.

In some cases, nephroptosis can cause severe symptoms, including flank pain and blood in the urine.

The condition has a long history of controversy that surrounds its diagnosis and treatment. However, imaging studies can now provide confirmation of its presence and of what is known as a floating kidney.

Contents of this article:

What is nephroptosis?

computer image of human kidneys
Nephroptosis is the medical term used for floating or mobile kidneys.

How do you know if you have a floating kidney?

Nephroptosis is when there is increased mobility in the kidneys. People with nephroptosis have kidneys that move downward out of their normal position when they stand up.

The condition can lead to intense abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting when standing, but it may also cause no symptoms at all.

Nephroptosis has long been controversial. The term was first used in 1885. Since then, it has been associated with many different symptoms, including:

  • hysteria
  • weight loss
  • kidney pain
  • palpitations

Due to the variety of symptoms linked to nephroptosis, doctors began to disregard it as a real disease.

Today, however, the presence of nephroptosis can be confirmed through the use of medical imaging done while a person is standing and laying down.

As far as the treatment options are concerned, these have also been widely debated for many years.

How can a floating kidney be corrected?

For a long time, the treatment method of choice was to use surgery to attach the floating kidney to the abdominal wall. However, the procedure fell out of favor because of the risks and the fact that it did not always resolve the symptoms.

Today, some surgeons will still perform this procedure if someone shows long-lasting symptoms of nephroptosis.

What causes nephroptosis?

Because nephroptosis is not well understood, doctors are not certain what causes the condition.

Some doctors believe that nephroptosis may be caused in part by any event that weakens the ligaments that hold the kidney in place within the body. These events could include any of the following:

  • sudden, dramatic weight loss
  • pregnancy and childbirth
  • injury to the abdomen or spinal column
  • frequent intense exercise

What are the risk factors of nephroptosis?

People with nephroptosis tend to have certain common traits. These traits may make a person more likely to develop nephroptosis.

Females are more likely to have nephroptosis than males. Other factors that may put a person at risk include: