Emphysematous pyelonephritis in type II diabetes: A case report of an undiagnosed ureteric colic

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Introduction : Emphysematous pyelonephritis (EPN) is a severe acute necrotising infection of the renal parenchyma and perirenal tissue, characterised by gas formation. 90% of cases are seen in association with diabetes mellitus. We report a case of undiagnosed ureteric obstruction in a type II diabetic, leading to EPN requiring emergency nephrectomy. Case presentation : A 59-year-old type II tablet controlled diabetic woman presented complaining of a five day history of right sided abdominal pain associated with vomiting, abdominal distension and absolute constipation. There were no lower urinary tract symptoms. Past surgical history included an open appendectomy and an abdominal hysterectomy. On examination, she was haemodynamically stable, the abdomen was soft, distended, and tender in the right upper and lower quadrants with no bowel sounds. Investigations revealed a CRP of 365 and 2+ blood and nitrite positive on the urine dipstick. The AXR was reported as normal on admission, however when reviewed in retrospect revealed the diagnosis. She was managed, therefore, as having adhesional bowel obstruction and a simple UTI. After four days, a CT was organised as she was not settling. This showed a right pyohydronephrosis with gas in the collecting system secondary to an 8 mm obstructing ureteric calculus. The kidney was drained percutaneously via a nephrostomy and the patient was commenced on a broad spectrum intravenous antibiotics. Despite this, she went on to need an emergency nephrectomy for uncontrolled severe sepsis. She was discharged in good health 15 days later. Conclusion : EPN carries a mortality of up to 40% with medical management alone. Early recognition of EPN in an obstructed kidney is essential to guide aggressive management, and in the presence of continued severe sepsis or organ dysfunction an urgent nephrectomy should be carried out. Diabetic patients who are known to have renal or ureteric calculi, whether symptomatic or not, should be considered for percutanous or ureteroscopic treatment. In the acute abdomen, the plain abdominal radiograph should always be viewed with respect to general surgical, vascular and urological differential diagnoses.




Vollans, S. R., Sehjal, R., Forster, J. A., & Rogawski, K. M. (2008). Emphysematous pyelonephritis in type II diabetes: A case report of an undiagnosed ureteric colic. Cases Journal, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-1626-1-192

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