Researchers from a Canadian hospital have successfully performed a kind of MRI test, called an elastogram, to map the stiffness of kidney tissue among people who have had kidney transplants. Determining the stiffness of kidney tissue helps measure scarring in the organ, because healthy tissues are softer than damaged ones.
What does this mean for kidney patients?
Knowing the extent to which a kidney is scarred enables doctors to predict how well it will continue to function. This is helpful on two fronts.
First, such predictions benefit the the patient at hand, who will have to live with the effects of kidney scarring. The scarring process is irreversible, but it can be slowed down, prevented from worsening, or kept from causing further damage. It does have untoward effects, which include substances like blood and protein mixing with urine, high blood pressure, and other imbalances.
Second, foreseeing how well a kidney will work is helpful for people awaiting new kidneys via transplant. These patients need to know the quality of their options; the researchers say an elastogram can be used to tell how well the examined kidney would work for a full year following the scan.
How can it impact methods of kidney testing and treatment?
To date, patients usually undergo a needle biopsy to measure scarring in their kidneys. An MRI promises to be a more convenient, and less complicated, alternative.
Unlike a needle biopsy that could cause bleeding and require patients to take an entire day off, an MRI test typically takes a shorter time and poses few problems. Due to the pinpoint clarity of its scans, an MRI can also show greater variability in the amount and location of scarring. Moreover, its ability to show a full and nuanced picture of the kidney helps answer any clinical questions about it, and determine diseased tissues that might indicate cancer.
MRI can measure kidney and predict future kidney function, DrugTargetReview.com
Effects of scarring on the kidneys, LiveStrong.com
What is magnetic resonance imaging, UrologyHealth.org