Skip to Main Content


  • • Retroperitoneal fibrosis characterized by extensive fibrotic encasement of the retroperitoneal tissues

    • Most common in men over age 50 who have renal failure secondary to obstructive uropathy

    • Diffuse desmoplastic involvement of the retroperitoneum may alternatively give rise to obstructive jaundice or small or large bowel obstruction

    • Classic diagnostic triad includes:

    • -Bilateral hydronephrosis/hydroureter

      -Medial deviation of the ureters

      -Extrinsic ureteric compression at the L4-5 level

    • Over 67% of cases are idiopathic

    • Known etiologies include:

    • -Drugs

      -Inflammatory disorders

      -Retroperitoneal hemorrhage

      -Peri-aneurysmal (abdominal aortic aneurysm [AAA]) inflammation


      -Urinary extravasation


    • Most common drugs associated with retroperitoneal fibrosis are methsergide and β-blockers

    • Most common inflammatory condition associated with retroperitoneal fibrosis is Sjögren syndrome


Symptoms and Signs


  • • Low back or flank pain

    • Symptoms of bowel obstruction

    • Jaundice (occasionally)


Laboratory Findings


  • • Uremia

    • Elevated creatinine

    • Pyuria

    • Microscopic hematuria

    • Elevated ESR and C-reactive protein levels

    • Elevated bilirubin (occasionally)


Imaging Findings


  • US: Demonstrates hydronephrosis

    CT scan or MRI: Demonstrates the classic findings that suggest the diagnosis:

    • -Fibrotic process

      -Bilateral hydronephrosis/ hydroureter

      -Medial deviation of the ureters

      -Extrinsic ureter compression

    • MRI more sensitive in differentiating between fibrosis and lymphoma or metastatic carcinoma


  • • Retroperitoneal hematoma

    • Retroperitoneal abscess

    • Retroperitoneal sarcoma

    • Retroperitoneal teratoma

    • Metastatic disease

    • Lymphoma

    • Mesenteric lipodystrophy

    • Peritoneal mesothelioma


Rule Out


  • • AAA

    • Medication-induced fibrosis

    • Underlying malignancy, most commonly metastatic carcinoma or lymphoma


  • • Complete history including risk factors and symptoms of systemic inflammatory diseases, such as Sjögren syndrome

    • Physical exam with thorough musculoskeletal evaluation

    • Radiographic characterization to evaluate for neoplasm and AAA

    • Percutaneous or operative biopsy of fibrotic mass for evidence of malignancy


When to Admit


  • • Most patients will have an obstructive uropathy that will require inpatient urinary decompression


When to Refer


  • • Urology for urinary decompression


  • • Urinary decompression via ureteric stents or percutaneous nephrostomy

    • Repair of AAA if present

    • Discontinuation of suspect medications

    • Initiate anti-inflammatory medications






  • • Diagnostic laparoscopy with biopsy to rule out neoplasm and definitively establish the diagnosis of retroperitoneal fibrosis

    • Ureterolysis in select patients




  • • Prednisone and other immunosuppresants have been used with varying success


Treatment Monitoring


  • • Clinical resolution of urinary obstruction

    • Repeat imaging study




  • • Renal insufficiency/failure

    • Bowel obstruction

    • Failure of fibrosis to resolve requiring lifelong ureteral stents or percutaneous nephrostomy tubes




  • • Prognosis for gradual resolution is good as long as there is no underlying cancer

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.