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Prenatal sonographic diagnosis of cystic renal disease

Tulin Ozcan, MD
Section Editors
Louise Wilkins-Haug, MD, PhD
Deborah Levine, MD
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


Congenital cystic renal diseases may become clinically apparent in the fetus, child, or adult. Congenital cystic renal diseases that can be diagnosed by antenatal ultrasound examination will be reviewed here. The diagnosis, clinical manifestations, and prognosis of renal cysts and cystic disorders in children and adults are discussed separately. (See "Renal cystic diseases in children" and "Diagnosis of and screening for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease" and "Genetics and pathogenesis of nephronophthisis" and "Autosomal dominant tubulointerstitial kidney disease (medullary cystic kidney disease)", section on 'Genetics of UKD'.)


The normal renal cortex is as echogenic as the liver or spleen, while the medulla is relatively hypoechogenic. By definition, a hyperechogenic kidney has a renal cortex more echogenic than the liver and spleen. It is important to note that normal fetal kidneys can be physiologically hyperechogenic in the first and second trimester.

Ultrasound examination of fetuses with cystic renal changes or hyperechoic kidneys includes assessment of [1]:

Amniotic fluid volume

Kidney size


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Literature review current through: Feb 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 07, 2016.
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