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What Is Caliectasis?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Caliectasis is a kidney condition characterized by dilation of the calices, structures inside the kidney which form part of the renal pelvis which drains into the ureter. Once in the ureter, fluid can be moved into the bladder and periodically eliminated through the urethra once enough fluid builds up. In individuals with caliectasis, fluid backs up in the kidneys and the calices become distended. Patients diagnosed with this condition are usually treated by a urologist, a doctor who specializes in care of the urinary tract.

One reason this condition develops is a urinary tract obstruction. Stones, growths, and other obstructions can make it difficult for fluid to drain from the renal pelvis. As it builds up, it puts pressure on the calices and they start to expand. This causes caliectasis. Likewise, infections in the urinary tract can cause similar problems.

Patients with this condition may find it difficult to urinate and can pass blood in their urine. The area of the kidneys may also feel tender and painful when it is palpated, and in some cases swelling can be felt. An ultrasound image will reveal swollen kidneys characteristic of caliectasis. Whether the condition is due to obstruction or due to infection, the first step in the patient evaluation will be to run some additional diagnostic tests.

These tests will provide more information about the patient's general health and the specifics behind the cause of the dilation of the calices. Surgical treatment options may be necessary, so this testing can also be used to prepare for surgery. Options for treatment can include a procedure to drain the kidney to relieve the pressure, antibiotics to treat infection, and surgery to remove a stone or growth. It may also be possible to dislodge a blockage and break it up for the purpose of allowing the patient to express it without the need for surgery.

While being evaluated for caliectasis, patients may want to ask about outcomes experienced by other patients who have used the same doctor, and what the prognosis is. It is also advisable to discuss treatment options. There may be several choices available and a doctor should be able to provide information about each available choice, including a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the available choices. Patients should also ask about follow up care, including steps which they may be able to take to avoid a recurrence of the problem.

How Is Caliectasis Diagnosed?

Nephrologists must confirm a caliectasis diagnosis before prescribing treatments to patients. Analyzing the symptoms is the first step in diagnosing Caliectasis, as it is with most disorders. An additional physical examination is performed to look for edema and pain around the kidneys.

Next, your nephrologist may request several diagnostic procedures to determine your condition. Diagnostic tests are important because they guide doctors in developing patient-specific treatment plans. Some common tests include:


These are the most common diagnostic tests when nephrologists suspect renal conditions. The nephrologist can examine the kidneys through an abdominal ultrasound without opening the patient's body. The images may confirm or negate the presence of harmful or foreign objects in the kidneys.


Cystoscopy is a quite invasive test because a cystoscope must be inserted into a patient’s urethra to view their kidneys and bladder. The inserted camera relays images of the potentially damaged organ. Many patients often avoid cystoscopy because they fear it might be painful. However, it is just mildly uncomfortable, and you should let your doctor know if you experience any pain.


This is similar to an X-ray test. The images allow your doctor to examine your kidneys' size and shape to see if any abnormalities might affect their functions. For example, an enlarged kidney may indicate excess fluid retention.


Urinalysis is a straightforward process that analyzes a patient’s urine sample for abnormalities. The nephrologist analyzes the urine sample's appearance, concentration, and content to confirm underlying kidney conditions. A urinalysis may also reveal other conditions like diabetes, prompting additional tests.

What Risk Factors Accompany Caliectasis?

Caliectasis triggers the dilatation of calices in the kidney and has several potentially fatal health hazards. For example, the obstruction caused by the dilatation makes passing urine challenging and uncomfortable.

Moreover, patients may get infections attributed to caliectasis, further damaging the kidneys. In severe cases, patients may lose their kidneys to organ damage.

Chronic caliectasis-related urinary retention may also result in hydronephrosis if the condition remains untreated. Hydronephrosis is not a disease. It is a condition characterized by kidney enlargement. 

Due to dilated calices, which prevent liquid waste from draining from the body, the kidneys expand; it is a result of urine building up inside the organ. Patients may have lower abdominal pain, a frequent urge to urinate, and possibly painful urinary tract infections.

Caliectasis-related health problems eventually lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal. Alternatively, the issues may eventually harm patients' kidneys, impairing their functions. Your nephrologist may propose dialysis or a kidney transplant when the organ cannot be salvaged.

What Happens After a Caliectasis Treatment?

Patients should have a full and speedy recovery following a timely Caliectasis diagnosis and the prescription of appropriate therapies. However, there can be a few unexpected results from the healing process.

For example, the ureter may be painful for some time after surgery. As a result, before fully recovering, patients may continue to have intermittent pain and have poor kidney drainage. Nephrologists recommend regular ultrasounds throughout this time to monitor recovery.

To help the kidney resume its functions after surgery, a nephrologist may insert a drainage tube. The kidney should eventually recover its normal size and shape and carry out its functions efficiently. Your nephrologist may modify your treatment plan should your kidney remain abnormally enlarged after treatment.

After fully recuperating, patients might not be out of the woods yet. Caliectasis patients risk developing kidney stones or urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, this risk can be controlled by getting regular checks.

Does Drinking Excess Water Cause Caliectasis?

You might wonder whether drinking excess water could cause the calicles to enlarge; this is because caliectasis makes it hard to eliminate extra fluid from the kidney.

Water cannot change the internal structures of your kidney, no matter how much you drink. However, since the kidney works to remove extra fluid from the body, drinking excess water overtaxes the organ. As a result, you can experience fatigue and exhaustion.

You can determine if you have been consuming excess water by checking the color of your urine. Urochrome, a pigment that gives urine its light yellow color, is typically excreted by the kidneys. The pigment is diluted when you consume excess water, resulting in clear pee.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon185925 — On Jun 13, 2011

what's an extrarenal pelvis? I know the kidneys each have their own pelvis but this one beats me.

By wantasiam — On Jun 06, 2011

@Fredo - I am thinking from reading this article that caliectasis of the kidney is just a "condition" of the kidney that occurs at the same time and/or as a result of either an infection that is happening or when stones or some type of obstruction is also going on within the kidney.

By Fredo — On Jun 05, 2011

I've studied medical terminology and never heard of this term before which puzzled me. I'm assuming that it's caught up with these other kidney conditions that this article talks about.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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