Nephrotoxicity (from Greek: nephros, "kidney") is a poisonous effect of some substances, both toxic chemicals and medication, on the kidneys. There are various forms of toxicity. Nephrotoxicity should not be confused with the fact that some medications have a predominantly renal excretion and need their dose adjusted for the decreased renal function (e.g., heparin).
Nephrotoxins are chemicals displaying nephrotoxicity.
The nephrotoxic effect of most drugs is more profound in patients already suffering from renal impairment. Some drugs may affect renal function in more than one way.
Types of toxicity
- General: diuretics, β-blockers, vasodilator agents
- Local: ACE inhibitors, cyclosporine, tacrolimus.
Direct tubular effect
- Proximal convoluted tubule: Aminoglycoside antibiotics (e.g., gentamicin), amphotericin B, cisplatin, radiocontrast media, immunoglobulins, mannitol
- Distal tubule: NSAIDs (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac), ACE inhibitors, cyclosporin, lithium salts, cyclophosphamide, amphotericin B
- Tubular obstruction: sulphonamides, methotrexate, aciclovir, diethylene glycol, triamterene.
- β-lactam antibiotics, vancomycin, rifampicin, sulphonamides, ciprofloxacin, NSAIDs, ranitidine, cimetidine, furosemide, thiazides, phenytoin.
Chronic interstitial nephritis
- cyclosporine 
Drug-induced glomerular disease is not common but there are a few drugs that have been implicated. Glomerular lesions occur primarily through immune-mediated pathways rather than through direct drug toxicity.
- Heroin and Pamidronate are known to cause focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
- Gold salts therapy can cause membranous nephropathy
Causes of diabetes insipidus
- Lithium salts
- Amphotericin B -- reversible at low doses, irreversible at high doses
- Heavy metals interfere with enzymes of energy metabolism.
- Aristolochic acid, found in some plants and in some herbal supplements derived from those plants, has been shown to have nephrotoxic effects on humans.
Nephrotoxicity is usually monitored through a simple blood test. A decreased creatinine clearance indicates poor renal function. Normal creatinine clearance levels are between 80 - 120 μmol/L. In interventional radiology, a patients' creatinine clearance levels are all checked prior to a procedure. Should an elevated creatinine clearance level be found, a special contrast medium or radiocontrast that is less harmful for the patient is used.
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