Location, location, location – The social factors making a difference to kidney health.

Many of us don’t fully understand what our kidneys are for or how they work, but they are important to all of us. A team of us a CLAHRC Wessex have been conducting a big research project to find out more about something called ‘Acute kidney injury’, which is when the kidney suddenly stops working properly. This can make people very ill by causing a build-up of waste products in the blood and upsetting the balance of fluids in the body. As a result, people with acute kidney injury can have longer hospital stays and can experience serious consequences, such as needing dialysis or even dying.

img_4707  Dr Hilda Hounkpatin

Some people get acute kidney injury while in hospital, for example, following a major surgery or an infection, but most (approximately two thirds) of all acute kidney injury cases start when people are not in hospital. Some of these people may end up going in hospital but some are cared for at home. For these people who get acute kidney injury when they are not in hospital, it can start for a number of reasons such as an infection, but not much is known about who is at most risk of getting it.

We have been using routinely collected health data to try and understand this non-hospital acute kidney injury better. This data contains information on blood tests used to detect acute kidney injury and can be used to identify people at risk.

Our research has come up with an interesting finding. It shows that people living in less affluent areas are more likely to have acute kidney injury than people living in more affluent areas.

Not only that, but the difference between more and less affluent areas most striking for this non-hospital acute kidney injury.

This study helps us understand who is more likely to have acute kidney injury and how best to reduce or even prevent the problem.  Clearly there is more work to be done to understand why there are these differences. Our work suggests that efforts to prevent AKI or reduce its impact might be best focused on socioeconomically disadvantaged areas.


This research links to work we are doing with GPs and practice teams across Hampshire to help improve the detection and prevention of this non-hospital acute kidney injury. We are also working to develop a tool that doctors and nurses can use to identify people at risk of acute kidney injury that happens out of hospital, with the hope that some cases can be prevented or treated early. This, together with the new national NHS programme of alerts to detect acute kidney injury can reduce the impact of this serious condition.

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