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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 285-1).

Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 285-1 Classification of the Causes of Tubulointerstitial Diseases of the Kidney

Acute TIN most often presents with acute renal failure (Chap. 279). 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 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 ...

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