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Assessment of the Renal System

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

This video will cover general renal assessment which includes health status, history and physical exam.

Before we start, be sure to download the free PDF study guide with this video to enhance your learning. Link is listed below!

Importance of the Assessment

A good assessment allows us to gather important information that serve as clues as to what is going on with the patient. Once we have enough information, treatments can begin. Assessments also allow us to re-evaluate current treatment or past treatment to determine whether the treatment is helping the patient or not.

Current Health Status

It's important to document the reason the patient is seeing the doctor and their complaints. Common complaints for renal disorders are pain, change in frequency and urgency and difficulty urinating.

Previous Health Status

Ask about the patient's previous major illnesses, recurrent illnesses, accidents or injuries. You should also ask about surgical procedures and allergies as these could also be clues to possible causes. Sometimes the patient may not remember or understand how to explain certain issues so it's also good to ask specific questions like, “Do you have pain or burning on urination? Is initiating urination difficult? What color is your urine?”

Family History

It is important to ask if there is a family history of cardiovascular disorders, cancer or other chronic diseases. Physical Examination

The first step begins with obtaining vital signs and weighing the patient. During this time, you may also collect a urine specimen as well. In the previous video, we learned that the renal system affects many body functions so a head to toe assessment would be done.


When focusing on the renal system, inspection includes the abdomen and urethral meatus.

While inspecting the abdomen, you look for abnormalities which include enlargements or fullness while comparing both sides. A normal abdomen is symmetrical. Ask about scars, legions or bruises if they are seen


During auscultation, you will listen to the renal arteries for any abnormalities such as systolic bruits which have a whoosh sounds.


Here you will gently tap on the kidneys to note any tenderness or pain which is an abnormality. Also percuss the bladder to note the position of the bladder.


During this examination, the kidney and the bladder would be palpated. Here you would be able to notice any lumps, masses or tenderness. Encourage the patient to relax as much as possible by taking deep breaths through the mouth.

Fluid and Electrolyte Imbalances

Patients with kidney disorders will commonly experience fluid and electrolyte imbalance. Knowing this will be very helpful in your exams because signs and symptoms will indicate certain electrolyte imbalances.

Fluid Imbalance

Fluid is a very big indicator when it comes to renal disorders. There will be fluid overload which means the patient has too many fluids for the kidney to handle and fluid volume deficit which means the patient doesn't have enough fluid in the body.

Now, what's very important to remember is that fluid and blood pressure have a strong relationship so careful monitoring of fluid is crucial. The most accurate indicator of fluid loss/gain is weight gain.

The three most important imbalances we are going to go over is Fluid Volume, Sodium and Potassium

Fluid Volume Deficit

These manifestations include decreased skin turgor, dry mucous membranes, oliguria or anuria.

Fluid Volume Excess

These manifestations include edema, crackles, shortness of breath

Sodium deficit

These manifestations include nausea, tiredness, lethargy, headache

Sodium excess

This would include the patient complaining of thirst, rough dry tongue and fever

Potassium Deficit

These manifestations include abdominal distention, paralytic ileus and ECG changes

Potassium Excess

Manifestations include diarrhea, nausea, irritability


When manifestations are present, there are nursing interventions we take to help improve the patient's condition which we will talk about later when discussing treatments.

Well that concludes this post, join us in the next post as we cover Diagnostic Tests Part One of the Renal system. Thanks for reading!

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