A curious case of pancake kidneys

October 12, 2018

After an 18-year-old in India underwent a CT scan due to intestinal problems, doctors encountered condition called “pancake kidney.”.

“The extraordinarily rare condition is almost exactly what it sounds like”, said Dr. Steven Chang, an assistant professor of surgery in the division of urology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Chang treats patients who have kidney cancer but was not involved in the man’s case.

A “pancake kidney” – sometimes called disc, doughnut, cake, or a shield kidney –is the occurrence of the top and bottom of the kidneys fusing together.

“Instead of two separate, kidney-bean-shaped organs, the person ends up with one big, fused kidney”, Chang explained.

A “pancake kidney”usually forms during embryological development. Usually, when the kidneys form, these two developing structures ascend to a location in the body that’s closer to the mid-spine, with one kidney migrating to either side of the spine. However, in the case of a “pancake kidney”, something goes wrong during this ascent, resulting in tops and bottoms of the two developing kidneys fusing, and a slight misdirection in the path of the kidney alters its body position.

As the kidney can’t get to a location in the body as high up as the mid-spine, the fused kidney settles into a lower position, located closer to the pelvis. In the Indian man’s case, his pancake kidney sat right above his bladder.

People can live their whole lives with a pancake kidney and never know they have it, although it can sometimes cause problems like recurring UTIs or kidney stones.

But surgically separating the mass into two kidneys isn’t common, especially if a person has normal kidney.




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