A pelvic kidney, also known as an ectopic kidney or pancake kidney, is found in a condition wherein the kidney does not ascend out of the pelvic area during fetal development. Instead, the kidney remains within the pelvic area and in some cases can function normally, or it might cause problems. Some of the characteristics of a pelvic kidney include a smaller and more fibrous kidney as well as a short ureter, which is the tube that carries the urine from the kidney to the bladder. In many cases, there are no symptoms, but the condition can give way to other complications and diseases related to the heart and skeletal system. If symptoms are present, they commonly result in abdominal pain and urinary problems.
The kidneys begin to form within a month after fetal growth has begun and can be examined before birth via an ultrasound. The extra tissue mass within the pelvic area also can be detected via a rectal or vaginal examination. This diagnosis, however, needs to be followed up and confirmed with an X-ray to be certain that it is a pelvic kidney.
It is common for a pelvic kidney to function normally without any symptoms. If the kidney does not function normally or if there is a blockage in the ureter, it can result in mild or sharp pains within the lower abdomen. In some cases, the kidney is formed in the shape of a "U" and is known as a horseshoe kidney. When this happens, it can result in kidney stones, hydronephrosis and urinary tract infections. Complications can also include problems with the cardiovascular and central nervous systems.
Mullerian dysgenesis is another complication that often affects females. It is a condition wherein the reproductive organs are not developed properly or are missing altogether. Underdeveloped ovaries, a deformed or missing uterus and a short vagina are commonly associated with a pelvic kidney. The symptoms of this condition include irregular menstrual cycles and infertility. The reproductive system in men also can be affected and can result in undescended testicles.
No treatment is necessary for a pelvic kidney if there are no symptoms present. In cases when symptoms are present, the kidneys can be removed with surgery. It also might be possible to relocate the kidney, but this operation has not been shown to be effective. Certain medications can be subscribed to help the patient better deal with the symptoms.