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Individuals who have only one normal (solitary) kidney – because they donate or are born with one kidney, or through an accident or disease (e.g., tumor, obstruction) – frequently express concern as to the future effects of not having two of these organs. The long-term outlook is in fact, excellent, a prognosis based on the following facts:
  • There are people born with a solitary kidney. In many cases they go through life not knowing they were born with a solitary kidney. There does not appear to be any appreciably higher incidence of kidney failure in patients born with only one normal kidney or of them experiencing renal failure as a result of the second kidney being removed. The classic example of the latter is the individual who donates a kidney for a kidney transplant. There is, however, some evidence that individuals who donate a kidney for transplant and are left with a solitary kidney may have slightly higher blood pressure and a minimally increased amount of protein in their urine 10-15 years after the donation.

  • For the most part, nephrologists indicate that the activity of anyone with a solitary kidney need not be restricted, except for avoiding rigorous contact sports (e.g. tackle football, body checking in hockey, etc.). Furthermore, special precautions are not required for child bearing. However, individuals who have been kidney transplant recipients do need to exercise more caution in these situations and should consult with their nephrologist for guidance specific to their situation.

  • If the solitary kidney is not completely normal dietary advice should be sought from a nephrologist. No other special dietary precautions are required.

(With acknowledgement to Denis F. Geary, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, for his assistance in compiling this information)