What is it?

As a fetus grows and develops, two kidneys are formed in the body to process wastes. In a child with a multi-cystic kidney, one of those kidneys is just a group of cysts with no ability to process waste. When this happens, the other, functioning kidney may have associated conditions such as vesicoureteral reflux (PDF) or uretero-pelvic junction obstruction.

How is it diagnosed?

Usually this condition is discovered prior to birth during a prenatal ultrasound. After birth, a pediatric urologist can perform tests that will help evaluate whether the multicystic kidney should be removed or whether the other kidney has problems that should be treated. Those tests may include:

  • a voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG). Fact sheets are available for boys having a VCUG and girls having a VCUG.
  • an ultrasound of the kidneys.
  • an intravenous polygram, which is a special X-ray of the kidney, ureters, and bladder that helps show how well the kidneys drain urine.
  • renogram, which is a scan that evaluates kidney function.
  • CT Scan of the Kidneys.

How is it treated?

Treatment will vary depending on your child's unique condition and the size of the multi-cystic kidney, but sometimes surgery is necessary to remove the multi-cystic kidney. Often, this procedure can be done laparoscopically. Many times, the multi-cystic kidney can be monitored and will shrink on its own and eventually disappear.

About surgery for a multi-cystic kidney at Children's

The pediatric urology surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. The team consistently performs some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Urologic surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul and Children's West.

  • If you are a family member looking for a Children's specialist in urology surgery, please call the Center for Pediatric Urology at 1-800-992-6983.
  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

Return to Children's pediatric urology surgery home page.