Skip to Main Content


Inflammation or fibrosis of the renal interstitium and atrophy of the tubular compartment are common consequences of diseases that target the glomeruli or vasculature. Distinct from these secondary phenomena, however, are a group of disorders that primarily affect the tubules and interstitium, with relative sparing of the glomeruli and renal vessels. Such disorders are conveniently divided into acute and chronic tubulointerstitial nephritis (TIN) (Table 310-1).

TABLE 310-1Classification of the Causes of Tubulointerstitial Diseases of the Kidney

Acute TIN most often presents with acute renal failure (Chap. 304). The acute nature of this group of disorders may be caused by aggressive inflammatory infiltrates that lead to tissue edema, tubular cell injury, and compromised tubular flow, or by frank obstruction of the tubules with casts, cellular debris, or crystals. There is sometimes flank pain due to distention of the renal capsule. Urinary sediment is often active with leukocytes and cellular casts, but depends on the exact nature of the disorder in question.

The clinical features of chronic TIN are more indolent and may manifest with disorders of tubular function, including polyuria from impaired concentrating ability (nephrogenic diabetes insipidus), defective proximal tubular reabsorption leading to features of Fanconi’s syndrome (glycosuria, phosphaturia, aminoaciduria, hypokalemia, and type II renal tubular acidosis [RTA] from bicarbonaturia), or non-anion-gap metabolic acidosis and hyperkalemia (type IV RTA) due to impaired ammoniagenesis, as well as progressive azotemia (rising creatinine and blood urea nitrogen [BUN]). There is often modest proteinuria (rarely >2 g/d) attributable to decreased tubular reabsorption of filtered proteins; however, nephrotic-range albuminuria may occur in ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.