Congenital abnormalities of kidneys on ultrasound

You must be thinking such medical terms are difficult to understand but do not worry, it’s as normal as we live with our daily principles of living.

First, let’s understand antenatal care. 

  • Antenatal is the stage when women are expecting a baby and get medical care during this period. 
  • Antenatal care is an essential part of the pregnancy for maintaining the health of the mother and the baby. Ultrasound examination is considered an important part of antenatal care. 


  • Ultrasound is a significant step that allows doctors to examine the baby inside the womb. 
  • An ultrasound is performed at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The ultrasound enables doctors to observe the internal organs like the kidney and urinary bladder of an unborn baby. 
  • Ultrasound helps in detecting any abnormalities developing in the urinary tract in the unborn so that the doctor can decide the treatment. 
  • However, many abnormalities cannot be threatening for the baby’s overall health. 
  • Babies are likely to have kidney abnormalities whose mothers use illegal drugs like cocaine.

 (The area in the kidneys that assists in transferring the urine to the bladder is called the renal pelvis. The renal pelvis is measured from front to back. The normal measurement of the renal pelvis should be 0 to 7mm before 24 weeks of gestation and approximately 10mm after 28 weeks.)

What are congenital kidneys that can be diagnosed with ultrasound?

The term congenital refers to a physical abnormality from birth. The congenital kidney is when the kidneys of a baby in the mother’s womb have not developed in the way they should. In some cases, the abnormalities can be dangerous to a child’s overall health. Congenital kidney abnormalities are:

  1. Renal dysplasia:
  • This is a condition when the kidneys develop abnormally and the tubules that collect the urine of the foetus fails to work and the urine has nowhere to flow through.
  • In many cases, babies with severe renal dysplasia does not survive birth. 
  • In other cases, as the baby survives it is likely to happen that the baby needs a kidney transplant or dialysis if both kidneys are affected. 
  • However, children with one kidney dysplasia do not need dialysis or a kidney transplant for some years.
  1. Polycystic or multicystic kidney disease:
    • In polycystic kidney disease, fluid-filled cysts are formed in the kidney.
    • Data says 30 per cent of newborns with polycystic kidney disease dies in their first week of life.
  1. Horseshoe kidney:
    • In this condition, babies have one fused or joined kidney instead of 2 separate kidneys. 
    • Babies with horseshoe kidneys are likely to have other birth defects.
    • Horseshoe kidney does not affect life expectancy. 
  1. Renal hypoplasia :
    • This condition says that the kidney is not well developed. It can be smaller than the adequate size. 
    • Because of the abnormal size, the kidney is unable to work properly.
  1. Renal agenesis:
    • In this condition, kidneys are missing in the newborn.
    • There are two renal agenesis.
      1. Unilateral renal agenesis.
      2. Bilateral renal agenesis.

(In unilateral renal agenesis one kidney is not there in the baby’s body and in bilateral renal agenesis babies cannot survive if do not receive medical treatment.)