End-stage kidney disease

Alternative Names

Renal failure – end stage; Kidney failure – end stage; ESRD

Definition of End-stage kidney disease

End-stage kidney disease is the complete, or almost complete failure of the kidneys to function. The main function of the kidneys is to remove wastes and excess water from the body.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

End-stage kidney disease (ESRD) occurs when the are no longer able to function at a level needed for day-to-day life. It usually occurs when has worsened to the point at which kidney function is less than 10% of normal.


Symptoms may include:

Signs and tests

High blood pressure almost always occurs during end-stage kidney disease. A brain and nervous system (neurologic) examination may show signs of nerve damage. The health care provider may hear abnormal heart or lung sounds with a stethoscope.


Dialysis or kidney transplantation is the only treatment for ESRD.

Expectations (prognosis)

Without dialysis or a kidney transplant, death will occur from the buildup of fluids and waste products in the body. Both of these treatments can have serious risks and consequences. The outcome is different for each person.


Charles Silberberg, DO, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/31/2010

Kidney anatomy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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