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Siamese Renality

January 19th, 2006

I’d forgotten about this. A few years back, when I got an ultrasound during a medical checkup, the technician told me something I had not known about myself. I have conjoined kidneys.

Yep. That’s right. They’re joined at the… er, kidney, I guess. One big one instead of two little ones. Actually, they are, apparently, elongated and joined at the lower end, to make a kind of a “V” shape. Most bizarre thing I’d ever heard about my insides. I mean, I had never even heard of conjoined kidneys before. In fact, I’d never heard of conjoined anything in terms of one person’s internal organs. But there they were, on the ultrasound, looking like… well, okay, I was looking right at them and had no idea what I was looking at. But I took the guy’s word.

The tech said he didn’t know exactly how common, or uncommon, that was, but if he had to guess, he said it was maybe one in every ten thousand people. I don’t know, though–that sounds awfully high. Think about it–that’s more than half a million people on Earth with conjoined kidneys. One would think that with that many people that way, you’d hear about it a bit more often. A Google search comes up with little about conjoined kidneys–mostly pages that mention them indirectly, or pages no longer up for viewing–and one butt-ugly rendition of a pair, though not as elegantly vee-shaped as my own. Certainly not enough hits to make one think that one could fill up all of Milwaukee with people like me. Besides, if I’m going to have any conjoined organs, I want to be more unique than just one in every ten thousand.

Fortunately, the condition doesn’t mean anything, not that the doctor could come up with. Apparently people with one big ‘ol kidney doin’ the work of two never even know it–I certainly didn’t, before the sonogram tech (who was checking for something else) mentioned it to me in a kind of by-the-way fashion. I won’t bore you with how normal the, uh, renal output is, just take my word for it.

I’m not freaked or depressed by it or anything. I mean, think about everything you have two of and what it would be like if they were conjoined.

It could be worse.

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  1. Jen
    February 2nd, 2006 at 23:43 | #1

    Hey there Luis, you got some medical information that was not quite correct. I suspect that you have what is commonly known as a “horseshoe kidney”. Yep, that’s the medical name for it as well as the everyday name. It is not called “conjoined kidney” and that is why you had trouble researching it. Horseshoe kidney is one of several kinds of kidney variants known collectively as “renal fusion anomalies”.

    Anomolies of the genito-urinary tract are more common than in other organ systems. The incidence of horseshoe kidney is approximately one in 400 and its more common in males than females. Because of the altered anatomy, people with horseshoe kidney are more likely to get bladder infections, kidney stones, flank pain, and obstruction and or reflux of the flow of urine. But not everyone has these problems and many people never know they have it.

    Although fused kidneys are regarded as a benign condition, and nothing to worry about, there is thought to be a slightly increased risk of kidney cancer down the line. However, this is most likely a secondary affect due to damage done by chronic or untreated infections and stones. See below for another reason.

    Maintaining good kidney / bladder health and keeping an eye on blood pressure are important. Actually, everyone should do this. You should always tell any doctor you consult about the kidney. The only other way its likely to affect you if you need surgery, simply because the surgeon needs to know very precisely where stuff is.

    You can still donate your kidney after your death (there have now been a few successful transplants with horsehoe kidney) but you probably won’t want to donate a kidney while you are alive, unless the kidneys can first be surgically separated. Some can, some can’t.

    Some children are born with a fused kidney PLUS other associated congenital problems and serious conditions such as Wilm’s tumour, a nasty form of kidney cancer that affects young children. Somehow I don’t think you fit into this group. This group may also be partly responsible for the increased statistical risk of cancer for people with a fused kidney.

    Just in case you are interrested, there are three other renal fusion anomalies:

    1. disc or pancake kidney – the kidneys are joined at the top and the bottom to create a ring shape

    2. cake or lump kidney – the kidneys are fused into one big lump

    3. crossed renal ectopy with or without fusion: both kidneys are on the same side (ie one of them is ectopic) and they may or may not be fused.

    Hope this helped

  2. Joy
    May 1st, 2006 at 11:27 | #2

    I just got the same diagnosis, “horshoe kidney” – I went in to get a MRI for back pain. I have a follow-up ultrasound on the special organ next week. Jen’s comments have helped reduce my fears about problems down the line.

    Good Luck with your own personal horseshoe!

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