Medical Q&As

Renal failure - survival without treatment?

After your kidneys stop working, approximately how long can you survive without dialysis or a transplant?

Most people can maintain normal filtering in their kidneys even if they have lost 90% of kidney function. It is only when less than 10% of kidney function remains that metabolic problems can arise. When the kidneys fail various waste products accumulate in the blood giving rise to a condition known as uraemia. Kidney failure can be either acute or chronic. Chronic renal failure is the more common condition. In the case of acute renal failure the renal function declines rapidly within hours or days giving rise to serious metabolic disturbance. If that state continues to the point that the person is no longer producing urine, which is known as oliguria, it is unlikely that the person could survive longer than 2 to 3 weeks. In the case of chronic renal failure a more gradual process of decline takes place in which the body adapts to the declining state of renal function. It could take many months or even a few years before the decline leads to complete failure of the kidneys. However, once that point is reached it would not be possible to survive more than a couple of weeks without undergoing dialysis or a kidney transplant.