Acute renal failure in the elderly: particular characteristics
Elderly individuals comprise the fastest growing patient population group and acute renal failure (ARF) is quite common among them, although exact numbers are not known. We reviewed the literature with regards to the characteristics of ARF in elderly patients and describe some useful guidelines. The ageing kidney is characterized by many structural and functional changes, which are mainly due to various chronic disorders, such as hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis, which are highly prevalent in these patients. A number of structural and functional changes characteristic of the ageing kidney make elderly people especially prone to renal damage. ARF in the elderly is frequently of multifactorial origin and often with an atypical presentation, like the "intermediate syndrome", which combines characteristics of pre-renal azotemia and acute tubular necrosis. Physical examination and laboratory blood and urine indices may sometimes be misleading occasionally leading to misdiagnosis. Prophylaxis remains the preferred approach to therapy: one should avoid nephrotoxic drugs and poly-pharmacy, adjust drug doses and achieve adequate hydration of the patient as cautiously as possible. Dialysis therapies can be used for treatment of ARF irrespective of age and carry a good prognosis.