Q: I’ve seen the terms acute kidney injury and acute renal failure used interchangeably. What is the difference?

A: Susan M. Dirkes, rn, ms, ccrn, replies:

Acute renal failure (ARF) was used in the past to describe any kind of kidney failure. In fact, in one study, Kellum et al showed that physicians had more than 35 definitions of renal failure. When the term ARF was used, it was regarded as a simple complication of the patient’s illness. The diagnosis then was that the kidney had failed. In the past decade, however, ARF has been extensively researched. The new term acute kidney injury (AKI) indicates that this problem is a clinical manifestation of several disorders that affect the kidney acutely. AKI indicates injury is occurring and it can be graded into mild, moderate, and severe injury. The key is to identify kidney injury before it becomes...

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