A pediatric nephrologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating kidney-related disorders in infants, children, and teenagers. Professionals in the specialty utilize their knowledge of human development to accurately determine the cause of various physical symptoms. Depending on patients' specific problems, nephrologists might prescribe medications, perform dialysis procedures, or recommend surgery. Most pediatric nephrologists work in joint or private practices, but some doctors are full-time employees of children's hospitals, clinics, and teaching centers.
In most cases, pediatric patients are referred to nephrologists by their primary care doctors when kidney problems are suspected. With the help of nurses and aides, a pediatric nephrologist can evaluate a new patient by studying his or her medical and familial history, conducting a physical exam, and ordering a series of tests. A doctor might, for example, decide to collect blood and urine samples to check for abnormal levels of minerals or white blood cells. X-rays and other types of diagnostic imaging scans are often used to look for congenital defects, swelling, and obstructions.
After testing is complete, a pediatric nephrologist might diagnose one of a number of possible kidney disorders. The most common problems discovered in pediatric patients include inherited renal disease, kidney stones, and spreading urinary tract infections. Pediatric nephrologists understand that such problems may cause different symptoms and complications in children than in adults, and they make informed treatment decisions based on the ages and overall health of their patients.
Young patients may be scared or confused during testing and treatment, and it is up to the pediatric nephrologist to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Most professionals are very friendly, patient, and skilled at explaining procedures in words that children can comprehend. By easing patients' anxiety, nephrologists usually have an easier time conducting examinations and gathering important information about their symptoms.
A person who is interested in becoming a pediatric nephrologist typically needs to spend at least 12 years in college and practical residency programs before earning licensure. After receiving a Doctor of Medicine from an accredited school, a new doctor usually joins a three- to four-year residency in pediatrics at a children's hospital. A one- to two-year fellowship dedicated to pediatric nephrology follows a residency, during which time a doctor diagnoses and treats patients under the supervision of experienced specialists. By completing training and passing an extensive board certification exam, a pediatric nephrologist earns the right to begin working independently.