Renal Failure Types

The kidneys are vital organs of the body that help in removal of excess fluids as well as wastes from the blood and maintain electrolyte balance in the body. Declining functions of the kidneys lead to renal failure.

Renal failure is of basic two types:-

  • Acute renal failure or acute kidney injury
  • Chronic renal failure or chronic kidney injury

While acute renal failure is caused due to sudden failure of renal functions, chronic renal failure is the result of slow and progressive decline of renal functions.

The trends of creatinine rise in blood may help determine the progress of renal damage. While in acute kidney injury there is a sharper rise in creatinine in blood indicating sudden onset renal damage, in chronic renal damage the levels rise more gradually but progressively as the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) declines.

Acute renal injury or acute renal failure

Acute renal failure is the previous term given to acute renal injury. In this condition the kidney functions decline rapidly. The patient may present with declining volume of urine, electrolyte imbalances and accumulation of fluids in the body.

Depending on the cause of acute renal damage, acute renal injury is further classified as:-

  • Prerenal failure including causes that reduce the blood flow to the kidneys. These include dehydration, severe fall in blood volume due to shock, blood loss or extensive burns, heart failure, cardiogenic shock,  anaphylactic shock, septic shock,
  • Renal failure including those that are caused by diseases of the kidneys. This includes acute tubular necrosis, toxins and drugs that damage kidneys, hemoglobinuria, myoglobinuria, myeloma light chains, pyelonephritis or acute glomerulonephritis.
  • Post renal failure is caused by obstruction of urine flow from the kidneys. This obstruction maybe at the level of the ureter or at the level of the outflow of the urinary bladder.

Chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure

Chronic kidney disease develops due to long term disease or damage to the kidneys. Commonly chronic renal failure is the end result of kidney damage caused by diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

Acute-on-chronic renal failure

Acute renal failure or acute renal injury may develop in patients with chronic renal disease. This is called acute-on-chronic renal failure.

This condition is often difficult to distinguish from chronic renal failure and may be life threatening. In fact most people who present with acute renal injury already have some degree of chronic renal damage.

End-stage renal disease or ESRD

This is a condition where the kidney functions are almost totally absent with GFR less than 5% of normal. The renal tissues appear dried up along with fibrosis. Dialysis or transplantation of a healthy donor kidney is required for living at this stage.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 17, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, June 17). Renal Failure Types. News-Medical. Retrieved on February 22, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Renal Failure Types". News-Medical. 22 February 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Renal Failure Types". News-Medical. (accessed February 22, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. Renal Failure Types. News-Medical, viewed 22 February 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
Japanese squirrels may be a model for human amyloidosis