Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation

: 2009  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 120--123

Reflex anuria affecting both kidneys following hysterectomy

Mahmoud Gholyaf1, Saeed Afzali2, Hoshang Babolhavaegi3, Abolfazl Rahimi4, Seyed A Wagharseyedayn5,  
1 Department of Nephrology, Ekbatan Hospital, Hamedan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Hamedan, Iran
2 Sina Hospital, Hamedan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Hamedan, Iran
3 Department of Urology, Ekbatan Hospital, Hamedan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Hamedan, Iran
4 Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Zanjan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Zanjan, Iran
5 Faculty of Nursing Department, Islamic Azad University, Birjand Branch, Birjand, Iran

Correspondence Address:
Mahmoud Gholyaf
Department of Nephrology, Hamedan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Hamedan


In situations when there is unilateral ureteral obstruction, the contralateral kidney retains its normal function. In rare instances however, it has been reported that unilateral ureteral obstruction can lead to reflex anuria (RA) and acute renal failure (ARF). Even more unusually, RA with ARF can occur without organic obstruction due to ureteric manipulation during pelvic surgery. We report a 78- year-old woman, who underwent hysterectomy because of endometrial carcinoma. She developed ARF evidenced by anuria of 120-hours duration, and gradual rise of serum creatinine levels to 11.8 mg/dL on the fifth day after hysterectomy. Ultrasound study of the urinary tract revealed bilateral moderate hydronephrosis. Detailed evaluation did not reveal any organic obstruc­tion. She was managed with hemodialysis, control of hypertension and correction of fluid and elec­trolyte imbalances. By the sixth day, diuresis was established, and the blood urea and serum crea­tinine levels decreased to normal by the sixteenth day. The patient was finally discharged on the eighteenth day. Our case suggests that urologists and nephrologists should consider RA as one of the causes of anuria and ARF.

How to cite this article:
Gholyaf M, Afzali S, Babolhavaegi H, Rahimi A, Wagharseyedayn SA. Reflex anuria affecting both kidneys following hysterectomy.Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2009;20:120-123

How to cite this URL:
Gholyaf M, Afzali S, Babolhavaegi H, Rahimi A, Wagharseyedayn SA. Reflex anuria affecting both kidneys following hysterectomy. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl [serial online] 2009 [cited 2021 Jan 21 ];20:120-123
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Full Text


During unilateral ureteral obstruction, the con­tralateral kidney retains its normal function. In rare instances, however, it has been reported that unilateral ureteral obstruction can lead to reflex anuria (RA) and acute renal failure (ARF). [1],[2],[3],[4]

RA is defined as "cessation of urine output from both kidneys in response to irritation or trauma to one kidney or its ureter or severely painful stimuli to other organs". [1],[4],[5] The diag­nosis of RA is based on three criteria:

a normal contralateral kidney, which retains normal function soon after the disease causing non-function of the other kidney has been treated,subsequent investigation of the contralateral kidney shows that a pathological process is un­likely to have caused its loss of function, and surgical intervention to the contralateral shut­down kidney does not result in return of func­tion in either kidney.

Anuria and ARF due to RA are rare, and occur almost always after surgical procedures and manipulation of the ureter (without obstruction due to stone or ligation). Rarely, RA has been reported in unilateral ureteral obstruction due to ureteral stone. We herewith describe a case of RA affecting both kidneys due to ureteric mani­pulation during hysterectomy for endometrial carcinoma; this entity is very rare in general practice and very few reports exist in the lite­rature. [4],[5],[6]

 Case report

We report the case of a 78-year-old Iranian woman, admitted to the Ekbatan Hospital in the city of Hamedan, who underwent hysterectomy for endometrial carcinoma. Despite effective hydration after recovery, she developed anuria (urine volume [4] RA is a very rare event, which can occur following neu­ral irritation of the bladder or ureter.

Catalano et al (2002) reported a female patient who developed anuria of 72-hours duration and ARF due to a 2-cm stone located in the pelvis of the right kidney. The patient had not taken any nephrotoxic agents, nor did she have any infection or dehydration. [4] Ultrasound showed that the affected kidney had normal dimensions with a hydronephrotic pelvis. [4] Excretory uro­graphy performed later showed prompt and simultaneous excretion of contrast medium by both kidneys and normally shaped urinary tract and bladder. [4]

Stamey in 1974 and Sirota in 1954 described occurrence of anuria following urethral cathete­rization and mentioned that vesicoureteral obs­truction due to edema, was the cause of this event. [7] Shearlock and Howards in 1976 des­cribed RA in a 32-year-old nurse, who under­went right nephrectomy, because of xanthogra­nulomatous pyelonephritis. Retrograde pyelo­graphy and arteriography were normal. Diuresis resumed after six days; further studies in this patient, showed retroperitoneal fibrogranular infiltration with pulmonary, pericardial and bone marrow involvement, which was treated with vincristine, prednisolone and cyclophospha­mide. [8] In 1980, Hull and co-workers described a case of RA due to unilateral distal ureteral stone. After removal of the stone, diuresis was established. [1]

We report a patient with post-hysterectomy bilateral RA, which is a very rare event. In this case, ureteral spasm due to hyper-excitability of the autonomic nervous system may be the cause of RA. [4] There is experimental support for the neurovascular hypothesis. Di Salvo and Fell were able to shut off the renal blood supply by using pulsatile renal nerve stimulation. [9]

In the case reported by Maletz et al, renal scintigraphy was performed before and after the acute episodes, and the findings appear to sup­port the role of angiospasm in causing anuria.During the acute episode, there was low uptake of radioactivity bilaterally with a higher uptake by the obstructed kidney. They suggested that the autonomic nervous system in patients who presented with RA was extremely sensitive to visceral stimuli. [2]

Hull et al [1] suggested two reflex mechanisms to explain RA; an arteriolar intrarenal spasm, or a ureteral spasm, both associated with pain. [3] Suzuki et al [10] reported a case supporting the role of ureteral spasm in which a boy expe­rienced anuria after partial hepatectomy, in whom bilateral ureteral catheterization was followed by heavy diuresis. Maletz et al [2] des­cribed a case in which the positioning of a ureteral stent was followed by the disappea­rance of pain and the start of diuresis. These cases do not exclude the possibility that renal vasoconstriction might be associated with ure­teral spasm but, suggest that by stopping the latter, anuria could be resolved.

However, RA (which can cause ARF) is so rare that many physicians believe it to be a myth. Consequently, RA might not be consi­dered in the differential diagnosis of ARF. [4] Also, most reference textbooks do not discuss RA as a cause for ARF. [11],[12] An important exception is Rose's UpToDate; [13] Maletz et al [2] reviewed RA in 1993.

We conclude that urologists and nephrologists should consider RA as one of the causes of anuria and ARF however uncommon it may be.

 Competing interests

The author(s) declare that they have no compe­ting interests.

 Authors' contributions

AR and MG drafted the manuscript, prepared illustrations and performed the literature search. SA, HB and SAW helped to draft the manus­cript, paying particular attention to the patho­logical aspect and kindly acquired histological images for illustration. MG conceived this study and supervised the drafting and overall struc­ture of the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.


The authors confirm patient consent has been sought and received.


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