Kidney Disease in Children

Comprehensive Care for Pediatric Kidney Disorders

Children with kidney disorders need expert care from many specialists who work together to prevent complications, disease progression, and kidney failure. Receiving care from a team of experts is vital, as children with kidney disease may also have medical conditions involving the heart, liver, lung, and brain. For this reason, Duke pediatric nephrologists work closely with many Duke pediatric specialists to ensure your child receives optimal care in a friendly and collaborative environment.

Identifying the Cause of Your Child’s Kidney Disease

There are many different types of kidney disease that affect children. Some are temporary and treatable. However, other forms of kidney disease are long-lasting and may impact your child’s growth, development, and psychosocial/educational achievement. The range of kidney diseases includes:

  • Congenital abnormalities or birth defects, which can include having a kidney that is not well-formed, a single kidney, a kidney with reduced function, or a kidney that is not draining properly into the bladder
  • Hereditary kidney diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease and Alport's syndrome, which run in families
  • Systemic kidney diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis), uncontrolled hypertension, and diabetes
  • Kidney filtering disorders and nephrotic syndrome, which refers to a loss of protein in the urine

Understanding the cause of your child’s kidney disease and starting prompt treatment to slow the progression of kidney disease and the decline in kidney function is our first priority.

We use urine and blood tests, as well as advanced imaging, to assess your child’s kidney disease and make treatment recommendations. Testing may include:

  • A renal nuclear scan to understand how well your child’s kidneys work and identify the cause of reduced kidney function
  • A voiding cystourethrogram, which is a type of X-ray that allows doctors to view your child’s kidneys and bladder, to look for a blockage or backflow of urine to the kidney
  • In some cases, a kidney biopsy, during which a small piece of tissue is obtained to determine the extent of your child's kidney disease and identify appropriate treatment

A Team Approach to Treating Your Child’s Kidney Disease

Our pediatric nephrologists work closely with other Duke pediatric specialists -- including pediatric urologists, cardiologists, rheumatologists, gastroenterologists, and other experts -- to manage your child’s kidney disease and related conditions.

  • We are at the forefront of kidney disease treatment. Our ongoing research includes studies to determine why some children develop kidney disease while others do not, and why certain children rapidly progress to kidney failure despite treatment. We are also testing new therapies and trying to gain a better understanding of the genetics of diseases such as nephrotic syndrome. We are constantly incorporating new insights and treatment advances into the care your child receives.
  • We share our knowledge about pediatric kidney disease with doctors across the country and around the world. Our doctors are frequently invited to speak at national and international conferences. We also train tomorrow’s kidney specialists at Duke University School of Medicine, and write articles for medical journals and chapters for medical school textbooks.
  • If your child has end-stage kidney failure and needs a kidney transplant, you can feel confident in our expertise. Our experienced pediatric kidney transplant team performs successful transplants in children using kidneys from deceased and living donors and provides your child with innovative, personalized transplant care.


Your child’s kidney disease treatment is highly personalized and based on the cause, stage of disease, and the presence of complications. Our goal is to manage your child’s condition, reverse the disease course when possible, slow disease progression, and delay the need for dialysis or kidney transplant for as long as possible.

Family-Friendly Services

We understand how pediatric kidney disease can take a toll on your family’s physical and emotional health. It can be challenging to help children understand and cope with their condition or the side effects of treatment. We offer resources to help support you and your family.

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