Sepsis-induced acute kidney injury: A disease of the microcirculation

Shuai Ma, Roger G. Evans, Naoya Iguchi, Marianne Tare, Helena C. Parkington, Rinaldo Bellomo, Clive N May, Yugeesh Ryan Lankadeva

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83 Citations (Scopus)


AKI is a common complication of sepsis and is significantly associated with mortality. Sepsis accounts for more than 50% of the cases of AKI, with a mortality rate of up to 40%. The pathogenesis of septic AKI is complex, but there is emerging evidence that, at least in the first 48 hours, the defects may be functional rather than structural in nature. For example, septic AKI is associated with an absence of histopathological changes, but with microvascular abnormalities and tubular stress. In this context, renal medullary hypoxia due to redistribution of intra-renal perfusion is emerging as a critical mediator of septic AKI. Clinically, vasopressor drugs remain the cornerstone of therapy for maintenance of blood pressure and organ perfusion. However, in septic AKI, there is insensitivity to vasopressors such as norepinephrine, leading to persistent hypotension and organ failure. Vasopressin, angiotensin II, and, paradoxically, α2-adrenergic receptor agonists (clonidine and dexmedetomidine) may be feasible adjunct therapies for catecholamine-resistant vasodilatory shock. In this review, we outline the recent progress made in understanding how these drugs may influence the renal microcirculation, which represents a crucial step toward developing better approaches for the circulatory management of patients with septic AKI.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12483
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • AKI
  • Hypoxia
  • Sepsis
  • Vasopressors
  • α-adrenergic receptor agonists

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