After almost six years of experiencing a mysterious pain and a bizarre sensation of a ball rolling round in her body every time she stood up, a 28-year-old woman has finally been diagnosed with a condition. Physicians discovered that she had a case of nephroptosis, otherwise known as “floating kidney”, as one of her kidneys moved down every time she stood up.
Reporting in BMJ Case Reports, doctors from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, conducted tests on the woman to determine the cause of her mysterious ailment. Although she’d had various tests before, the culprit behind her symptoms had never been identified.
Using intravenous pyelography, which according to the authors is “a simplistic imaging test that lends information about the dynamic anatomy of a patient”, the doctors discovered that her right kidney changed position depending on whether she was lying down or standing up. In fact, every time the woman stood up, her kidney dropped an alarming 6 centimeters (2.4 inches).
Nephroptosis occurs when the kidney drops more than 5 centimeters (2 inches) when a person moves from lying down to standing upright. It often comes with no symptoms and is more common in women than men, with as many as 20 percent of women being affected, although between 80 and 90 percent of these people never have any symptoms.
If symptoms do occur, they can range from severe pain and vomiting to a rapid heart rate and only producing small amounts of urine. Nephroptosis is rarely dangerous, but it can contribute to problems like kidney stones and kidney infections.
The authors of the case report note that it’s especially common in thin women – the woman in this particular case was described as thin – possibly due to a lack of perirenal fat, the fat that surrounds the kidney and extends into its hollow areas.
As well as being thin, other things that put you at a higher risk of floating kidney include high blood pressure, injury to the abdomen or spinal column, and recurrent kidney stones or urinary tract infections.
Interestingly, the woman in the case study found that her pain – which got worse when she stood up – improved when she was pregnant, likely because her uterus was supporting her wandering kidney.
In order to rid her of her unpleasant symptoms, doctors performed a robot-assisted laparoscopic nephropexy, a procedure that fixates a floating kidney. Luckily, four weeks later, the woman’s symptoms had completely disappeared and she felt no pain at all.