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She Only Has One What and It's Where?

While talking to my best friend of many decades last weekend (she lives a few states away), I gave her my usual life updates, and then she proceeded to tell me what seemed like a wild story, but apparently isn't all that uncommon, at least in some respects.

Her sister, who is a few years older than us and lives across the country, was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night with severe abdominal pain. Turns out she had kidney stones, which I understand is incredibly painful, but what else she found out was the real surprise: she only has one kidney. But that's not all. Her one kidney is in the shape of a horseshoe and is not where either of one's normal kidneys should be. What??? (I might add that her sister, my friend, became a registered nurse a few years and she had never heard of this either.)

This woman is in her mid 50s and she's never had any kidney or abdominal issues of any kind, which was the true surprise for the doctors. Apparently her condition is not all that uncommon, though. The disorder is a result of the two kidneys not fully forming in utero, they don’t completely split like they should, each moving up to its appropriate place in the abdomen. Since it doesn't split, it can't move, so the single horseshoe-shaped kidney sits in the "wrong" place.

"Horseshoe kidney," also known as renal fusion or super kidney, is a congenital disorder affecting about 1 in 400 people, more common in men than women. Although often patients are asymptomatic in life (it doesn't get discovered until/unless an autopsy is done), the condition may increase risk for kidney stones (a-ha!), kidney obstruction, kidney infection, and kidney cancer (although risk is still very low).

Learn something new every day.


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