Congenital Kidney Abnormalities

Congenital kidney abnormalities occur when a kidney doesn’t develop normally before birth, leading to various kidney function problems.

What are Congenital Kidney Abnormalities?

Congenital kidney abnormalities occur when a baby's kidneys and urinary tract do not form properly while developing in their mother's womb. These problems are present at birth.

One or both kidneys can be affected. In many cases, the abnormalities will not have significant health effects on the child.

What are the different types of Congenital Kidney Abnormalities?

Some of the more common types of congenital kidney abnormalities include:


Urethras are tubes from the bladder that allow urine to flow out of the body. A blockage at any point in the urinary tract can cause health problems.


Occurs when a developing baby's flow of urine is severely blocked. If both kidneys are damaged, urine production may be significantly decreased, reducing the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. Typically, children will not have complications when dysplasia occurs in only one kidney.

Etopic kidney

This is a kidney in the wrong position


This occurs when a blockage traps urine in a kidney, preventing it from draining to the bladder. The trapped urine causes the kidney to swell and can be a breeding ground for infection.

Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR)

The occurs when a faulty valve causes urine to back up from the bladder to the kidney. The back flow of urine can cause a urinary infection to spread to the kidney, which can lead to kidney damage if not treated.

Renal agenesis

Babies born with a single kidney

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

This occurs when many fluid-filled cysts grow in the kidneys, causing them to swell. PKD can lead to reduced kidney function and kidney failure

What are the signs and symptoms of Congenital Kidney Abnormalities?

Symptoms will vary due to the wide range of congenital kidney abnormalities and their impacts on a child’s health. Many of the conditions can be detected before the baby is born and symptoms are visible. Others may not cause symptoms or problems until adulthood.

Symptoms before a baby is born

  • Blocked ureters
  • Cysts on kidneys
  • Enlarged kidney
  • Low amount of amniotic fluid

Symptoms in infants (birth to 1 year*):

  • Breathing problems
  • Slow growth

Symptoms in those 1 year and older:

*Age limit of infants as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

What are the causes of Congenital Kidney Abnormalities?

Kidney abnormalities are typically inherited (passed down through families).

Congenital Kidney Abnormalities Doctors and Providers