Renal artery disease occurs when the arteries that carry blood to the kidneys become narrowed or blocked.

Renal artery disease can result from fatty deposits, called plaque, building up in the arteries and causing them to become narrow and blocked (a process called atherosclerosis).

It can also result from blood clots or debris that travel through the bloodstream (emboli) and lodge in the renal artery – blocking the main kidney artery or one of the smaller vessels.

Reduced blood flow through the renal artery can hurt kidney function. A complete blockage of blood flow to the kidney can often result in permanent kidney failure.

Renal artery disease is a type of peripheral vascular disease, which also includes peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease, mesenteric artery disease, aortic disease, venous problems, and some other conditions, such as vasculitis.

Renal Artery Disease Causes

The buildup of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis) is common in people who are smokers, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Emboli (blood clots or debris that travel through the bloodstream) are more common in people who have certain heart disorders which make them likely to form blood clots, such as mitral stenosis and atrial fibrillation.

Renal Artery Disease Symptoms

You may not have symptoms when one kidney does not function because the second kidney can filter the blood. However, high blood pressure (hypertension) may come on suddenly and be difficult to control. You may also experience extreme fatigue.

If your other kidney is not working fully, blockage of the renal artery may cause symptoms of acute kidney failure.

Renal Artery Disease Diagnosis

Tests for renal artery disease help confirm a diagnosis or rule it out. At Wake Forest Baptist, our physicians use state-of-the-art tools and techniques to detect renal artery disease, including:

Renal Artery Disease Treatment

We believe it is just as important to manage your disease as it is to treat it. For some patients, medical management may be an effective alternative to surgery.

If you have mild or moderate blockage, or if you have already undergone surgery, we may prescribe one or more of the following:

  • Hyperlipidemia management
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle change, such as quitting smoking
  • Exercise
  • Regular follow-up care to monitor your condition

In more severe cases, we may recommend surgery to open your arteries and restore blood flow. Surgical options include:

Only you and your doctor can decide which renal artery disease treatment is right for you. All of our patients receive pre-operative counseling to help them understand the risks and benefits of procedures.

Heart and Vascular Center

Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center combines cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery and vascular surgery to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to patient- and family-centered care. At the Heart and Vascular Center, our philosophy is clear: patients come first. We offer the latest in technology, devices and medication combined with personalized care, to offer life-changing vascular and heart disease treatments.