Which physical findings are characteristic of azotemia?

Updated: Sep 19, 2018
  • Author: Moro O Salifu, MD, MPH, FACP; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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Physical examination should be detailed but should focus on signs that have a high diagnostic yield.

In suspected prerenal azotemia, look for tachycardia; orthostatic hypotension (systolic blood pressure drop greater than 20 mm Hg or diastolic drop greater than 10 mm Hg from supine to standing); hypotension; signs of dehydration, including dry mucous membranes, loss of skin turgor, and loss of axillary sweat; and signs of congestive heart failure or hepatic insufficiency.

In suspected intrarenal azotemia, look for hypertension and its end-organ effects, such as hypertensive retinopathy and left ventricular hypertrophy (apical impulse displaced lateral to midclavicular line), rash, joint swelling or tenderness, needle tracks, hearing abnormality, palpable kidneys, abdominal bruits, pericardial rub, and asterixis. The last 2 signs are suggestive of uremia. The presence of uremic pericarditis requires immediate dialysis.

Postrenal azotemia (obstruction) is suggested by a palpable bladder that is dull to percussion and the presence of a rectal or pelvic mass on digital examination.

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