Given the critical role of our kidneys to our overall health, any damage or disease that affects them can have serious, long-term effects on your health, ranging from severe high blood pressure to kidney failure.
Nephrologists at the University of Chicago Medicine have a widely respected reputation for providing care that is both evidence-based and innovative. They not only offer the most advanced treatments for kidney disease, they do so using a personalized approach to medicine. Our physicians work together and with you to find the right care plan for your diagnosis and lifestyle.
Whether you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or could benefit from the encouragement provided by one of our support groups, our nephrologists will make sure you have access to the clinical and supportive care you need.
Our doctors have the diverse training and experience necessary to diagnose, manage or treat even the most complex kidney disorders, including:
- Acute kidney failure (or kidney injury), also known as acute kidney injury, is a serious condition that occurs when your kidneys suddenly begin to shut down over a short period of time. This condition can be life-threatening. However, with proper treatment, you may eventually regain most, if not all, of your kidney function back.
- Chronic kidney failure, also known as chronic kidney disease, occurs when your kidneys gradually lose function, causing long-term problems with many side effects.
- End-stage renal disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure, occurs when your kidneys can no longer function on their own. This is a permanent, life-threatening condition that requires dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant.
- Kidney stones are hard, solid masses made up of minerals and other substances found in your body. These masses, which range in size, shape and texture, can cause pain, bleeding and other symptoms if they grow large enough and get stuck in your urinary tract.
- Hereditary kidney diseases, including polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and hereditary nephritis (Alport syndrome), are disorders that travel within families—often across generations—because of a gene mutation. These diseases can cause chronic kidney disease and ESRD.
- Glomerular diseases including glomerulonephritis, lupus nephritis, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and Wegener’s granulomatosis are diseases caused by inflammation in the kidney. They are associated with protein in the urine, and can cause chronic kidney disease and ESRD.
- Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys and affect their ability to work properly. Our nephrologists work closely with other specialists to manage uncontrolled high blood pressure caused by medical problems such as diabetes, as well as a type of high blood pressure (called renal hypertension) caused by narrowed arteries in the kidneys.
- Electrolyte disorders, including dangerously high or low levels of potassium in your body. These are fairly common disorders that may be caused by genetics or from taking the wrong medication at the wrong time.
- Tubulointerstitial diseases, including interstitial nephritis, can cause inflammation in the kidney, resulting in chronic kidney disease or ESRD.
Many of our nephrologists have advanced training in highly specialized areas of kidney disease, allowing us to offer services not available at many hospitals. Some of our notable programs include:
Chronic kidney disease program
People with chronic kidney disease often suffer from other medical conditions including diabetes and heart disease, meaning you may have significant health needs that must be treated by multiple specialists. Our multidisciplinary program brings together the best of the University of Chicago Medicine’s clinical and support services, ranging from kidney, heart and liver specialists to dietitians and genetic counselors. Patients may also work with social workers who can help you manage insurance eligibility, medication costs or transportation assistance.
Our goal is to keep your kidneys strong and healthy for as long as possible, using a combination of medication and healthy lifestyle changes including a proper diet and quitting smoking. Patients benefit from a personalized prescription for their kidney health. If you eventually transition into kidney failure or ESRD, you will always continue to receive expert care and support from our dialysis or transplantation specialists.
Kidney stone management program
The University of Chicago Medicine offers one of the largest and most successful programs in the country for people seeking kidney stone prevention. Our specialized kidney stone laboratory provides the precise measurements in blood and 24-hour urine collections needed to determine the best kinds of medical treatment. Our physicians have extensive experience and are internationally renowned as clinicians and scientists. And our research has been federally funded since 1976.
Hereditary kidney disease program
The University of Chicago Medicine offers one of the largest programs in the country for people with inherited kidney diseases, including the most common hereditary kidney disorder, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). We have an extensive diagnostic panel of genes that can be tested to help patients receive an accurate diagnosis for one of several varieties of genetic kidney disorders. We also have the largest ADPKD registry of its kind in Illinois, with more than 2,000 patients from 700 families evaluated and receiving ongoing care.
Because patients with ADPKD are often at a higher risk for other medical conditions such as brain aneurysm, heart valve problems and liver cysts, our doctors routinely partner with top specialists in other fields including cardiac surgery, vascular surgery and neurosurgery. This allows us to ensure you receive the most comprehensive care available.
Our program has also earned recognition for our federally funded clinical and translational research activities. Through research, our doctors are learning more about – and exploring new treatments for – hereditary kidney diseases, particularly ADPKD.
Kidney and kidney-pancreas transplantation
With a long history of impressive “firsts,” including performing the world’s first liver transplant from a living donor, the University of Chicago Medicine’s transplant program continues to break new ground. Our team has performed more than 2,500 kidney transplants since 1970, with success and survival rates that continually exceed national averages.
As part of our commitment to helping you get off the transplant waiting list and successfully receive a new kidney, we’re utilizing refined donor-matching techniques and helping establish a kidney exchange program that may broaden the donor and recipient pools in the Midwest.
In addition to performing kidney-only transplants for people with kidney failure, we also offer simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplants for people who have both type 1 diabetes and significant kidney disease.
Acute kidney injury management
Our nephrology team includes several physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating acute kidney injury (AKI), which occurs when your kidneys shut down rapidly, over a short period of time.
Because AKI is common among people who are already hospitalized with a critical illness, our doctors routinely manage care for patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Our inpatient services include continuous renal replacement therapy, medication management and careful monitoring until your kidneys have recovered and you are healthy enough to go home.
Once you have been discharged from the hospital, our physicians will continue to provide long-term monitoring and care for you as needed. That’s because many patients who recover from AKI are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease, and are prone to additional episodes of AKI.
Members of our staff are also engaged in clinical research designed to better understand who is at highest risk of AKI and long term side effects, as well as identifying more accurate and efficient ways to identify the onset of AKI. Not only are our physicians committed to scientific research, but their clinical expertise is unmatched in the region. This means patients with AKI have access to emerging kidney disease therapies not widely available.
Kidney dialysis program
When your kidneys can no longer function on their own, dialysis treatment – the use of a machine or a special cleaning solution to filter wastes from the blood – is essential for survival.
The University of Chicago Medicine offers the full spectrum of inpatient, outpatient and at-home dialysis services, including:
• Peritoneal dialysis, a method of removing waste products from the blood using a special cleaning solution that is pumped into the abdomen, then discarded several hours later. The University of Chicago Medicine helps manage both continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (where you perform the procedure by hand several times a day) and continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (where you connect to a machine for eight to 10 hours, usually while you sleep).
• Intermittent hemodialysis, a type of dialysis that requires you to connect to a machine several times a week, often for several hours each session. The machine removes blood from your body, cleans it and then returns the filtered blood back into your body.
• Creating and managing a “dialysis access,” which refers to the permanent opening doctors create, usually in your arm, so you can easily connect to the hemodialysis machine (which needs access to your bloodstream). The two most common types of dialysis access are called arteriovenous fistulas and arteriovenous grafts.
• Continuous veno-venous hemofiltration, hemodiafiltration and slow continuous ultrafiltration are temporary treatments for critically ill patients with acute kidney injury who are unable to tolerate hemodialysis. These treatments, which use tubing and equipment similar to intermitttent dialysis, are exclusively provided in the ICU by a team of trained clinicians, including nephrologists and critical care nurses.
In addition to providing services at three outpatient hemodialysis centers in the Hyde Park area, including nighttime services for patients who work during the day, we run one of Chicago’s largest home dialysis programs. This service allows you to manage your peritoneal or hemodialysis needs in the comfort of your home.
Glomerular disease program
The University of Chicago Medicine is home to some of the country’s most respected experts in glomerular diseases, a category of kidney disorders that affect the “glomeruli” (tiny structures inside your kidneys that clean blood). Glomerular diseases damage the glomeruli, allowing blood and significant amounts of protein to leak into your urine, and reducing your kidneys’ ability to properly filter wastes. These disorders may have no known cause or they can be triggered by other medical conditions, including autoimmune disorders that attack many different organs inside the body.
Because glomerular disease can’t be effectively treated without a precise diagnosis, it’s important to seek care from doctors who not only have experience identifying these complicated and often rare disorders, but can prescribe the right combination of medications and other treatment options. Our nephrologists specialize in diagnosing and managing all varieties of glomerular disease, including glomerulonephritis, Goodpasture syndrome, IgA nephropathy lupus nephritis and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS).
Comprehensive hypertension center
University of Chicago Medicine physicians have unique expertise in caring for patients with complicated and hard-to-manage hypertension (high blood pressure), which can cause significant kidney damage if left untreated. Our accredited hypertension center offers a team-based approach designed especially for patients who have severe high blood pressure in combination with other medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition to offering 24-hour, remote blood pressure monitoring, our program is a national leader in hypertension research.
Renal or metabolic bone disease treatment
Many people with chronic kidney disease, especially those who require dialysis treatment, eventually end up with bone problems. This is because impaired kidneys can no longer maintain healthy levels of calcium, phosphorus, vitamins and other minerals essential to bone health. Our nephrologists partner with endocrinologists and other medical specialists to help diagnose and treat renal bone conditions including osteoporosis, osteomalacia and renal osteodystrophy.
Pediatric nephrology program
Our nephrology team works closely with pediatric nephrologists at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital to help treat children with complicated kidney diseases, especially as they transition from adolescence to adulthood and their care needs change.
In addition to the specialized programs and services listed above, the University of Chicago Medicine provides thorough diagnostic and consultative services, including:
- Specialized laboratory testing, ranging from glomerular filtration rate, genetic testing and urinary protein or albumin excretion, to kidney stone analysis
- Kidney biopsies (our doctors perform more than 300 annually)
- Bone biopsies to test for renal bone disease
- Consultations with patients who are looking for a second opinion
- Consultations with patients who have been referred for care by their primary care doctor or another medical specialist