Kidney and urology

This Topic Guide explores part of the RCGP curriculum, Being a General Practitioner. It will help you understand important issues relating to kidney and urological health by illustrating the key learning points with a case scenario and questions. It also contains tips and advice for learning, assessment and continuing professional development, including guidance on the knowledge relevant to this area of general practice.

Each Topic Guide is intended to illustrate important aspects of everyday general practice, rather than provide a comprehensive overview of each clinical topic. It should therefore be considered in conjunction with other Topic Guides and educational resources.

The role of the GP in kidney and urological health

As a GP your roll is to: 

  • Identify and manage chronic kidney disease (CKD), and understand the interventions that can delay its progression and reduce the associated increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality  
  • Identify and manage Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), including taking early action, such as stopping medications, to reduce the risk of AKI 
  • Manage of common urinary tract problems such as urinary tract infections (UTI), renal stone disease and benign prostatic conditions 
  • Be alert to possible indicators of urinary tract malignancy 
  • Know when to refer and when not to refer, avoiding futile investigation and escalation and encouraging supportive care

Emerging issues in kidney and urological health

  • There is increasing awareness that a significant proportion of AKI starts in the community, so GPs have a key role to play in its early identification and management
  • Increased use of cystatin C based eGFR estimates may help reduce over-diagnosis in early stage CKD
  • There is a growing awareness that many urological conditions are associated with obesity, inactivity and metabolic syndrome, which highlights the need for holistic assessment and care of patients with urological problems

Knowledge and skills guide

For each problem or disease, consider the following areas within the general context of primary care:  

  • The natural history of the untreated condition including whether acute or chronic 
  • The prevalence and incidence across all ages and any changes over time  
  • Typical and atypical presentations 
  • Recognition of normal variations throughout life 
  • Risk factors, including lifestyle, socio-economic and cultural factors
  • Diagnostic features and differential diagnosis 
  • Recognition of 'alarm' or 'red flag' features 
  • Appropriate and relevant investigations 
  • Interpretation of test results 
  • Management including self-care, initial, emergency and continuing care, chronic disease monitoring  
  • Patient information and education including self-care 
  • Prescribing – understanding medication and dose changes in renal impairment 
  • Prognosis 

Symptoms and signs 


  • Dysuria 
  • Haematuria  
  • Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS): 
    • storage symptoms: frequency, nocturia, urgency 
    • voiding symptoms: hesitancy, poor stream, terminal dribble 
    • post micturition symptoms: post micturition dribble, sensation of incomplete emptying 
  • Oliguria, anuria, polyuria 
  • Proteinuria 
  • Strangury 
  • Urinary incontinence – stress, urgency and mixed 
  • Urinary retention – acute and chronic 


  • Abnormal digital rectal examination 
  • Erectile dysfunction 
  • Haematospermia 
  • Penile problems including deformity, skin lesions 
  • Perineal pain 
  • Scrotal pain, swelling and lumps 
  • Testicular pain, swelling and lumps 


  • Abdominal and loin masses including palpable kidneys and bladder 
  • Abdominal and loin pain 


  • Anaemia 
  • Fever and rigors 
  • Hypertension 
  • Oedema 
  • Pruritus 
  • Thirst 
  • Systemic symptoms of vasculitis for example, rash, arthralgia

Common and important conditions  

  • Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)  
  • Cancer: bladder, kidney, penile, prostate, testicular, ureteric 
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) including causes, classification, management, monitoring and indications for referral
  • Congenital abnormalities of the urinary tract 
  • Haematuria (visible or non-visible) 
  • Inherited kidney diseases such as polycystic kidney disease, Alport syndrome 
  • Intrinsic renal disease (for example, glomerulonephritis) 
  • Overactive bladder syndrome 
  • Penile problems such as malignancy, paraphimosis, Peyronie's disease, phimosis, priapism, balanitis, skin disorders  
  • Prostatic problems such as acute and chronic prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatic carcinoma  
  • Proteinuria (including microalbuminuria) 
  • Renovascular disease (renal artery stenosis) 
  • Systemic conditions causing kidney disease for example, connective tissue diseases, diabetes mellitus, glomerulonephritis, hypertension, malignancy such as multiple myeloma, nephrotic syndrome
  • Testicular problems including epididymitis, hydrocele, orchitis, sperm granuloma, torsion, tumours (such as seminoma and teratoma), undescended and maldescended testes, varicocele 
  • Urinary incontinence in men  
  • Urinary incontinence in women: stress and/or urge incontinence. (Prolapse is covered in Topic Guide Gynaecology and Breast) 
  • Urinary tract infections in children and in adults including lower urinary tract infection, pyelonephritis and persistent/recurrent infection  
  • Urinary tract obstruction including acute and chronic retention; causes including prostatic and other structural abnormalities (strictures, congenital renal tract abnormality such as posterior urethral valves, duplex systems)  
  • Urolithiasis (stone disease): renal colic, management of stones including lithotripsy and ureteric stents

Erectile dysfunction and sexually transmitted infection are covered in Topic Guide Sexual Health).

Examinations and procedures

  • Abdominal examination to include bladder and kidney palpation 
  • Assessment of fluid balance status 
  • Digital Rectal Examination including prostate size, tenderness, nodules 
  • Genital examination 
  • Urine dipstick testing 


  • Blood tests: including creatinine, eGFR, electrolytes, full blood count, prostate specific antigen (PSA), calcium, phosphate, parathyroid home (PTH) and Vitamin D 
  • International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) to assess LUTS 
  • Renal tract imaging including ultrasound and CTKUB 
  • Secondary care investigations (such as cystoscopy, ureteroscopy, urodynamic studies and flow rate studies)  
  • Urine tests: including biochemistry, microscopy, culture and sensitivities, quantification of urinary albumin and protein

Service issues

  • Call and recall systems to ensure patients with CKD receive appropriate monitoring 
  • Circumcision for religious or cultural beliefs – including ethical issues 
  • Debate around the role of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test as a screening test for prostate cancer 
  • Local continence services and arrangements for management of long term urinary catheters 
  • The role of chaperones in intimate examinations

Additional important content

  • Being aware that the patient's physiology and anatomy may be different from the patient's gender 
  • Catheters: types, indications, management, problems such as bypassing, infection, self-catheterisation, use of catheters in paraplegic patients 
  • Conservative management of end stage renal failure including management of anaemia 
  • Dialysis: peritoneal and haemodialysis, including complications that may be encountered in primary care (such as infection of catheter sites, fluid balance disturbance)  
  • Methods to estimate and measure glomerular filtration rate (GFR), including their limitations and necessary adjustments 
  • Nephrostomy and cystostomy care 
  • Prescribing in kidney disease (for example dose adjustment in renal impairment) and an awareness of nephrotoxic medications 
  • Renal transplantation and post-transplant care that is relevant to primary care

Case discussion

Nigel is a 37-year-old businessman who presents to you having recently had a 'well man' check through his employer's private health care provider. At this check he was found to have 2+ blood and 3+ protein on his urine dipstick and was advised to see his GP to follow this up. He is otherwise fit and well and asymptomatic. Abdominal examination is normal, and his blood pressure is 155/93. The urine dipstick shows persistent proteinuria and non-visible haematuria. He tells you his mother had a renal transplant five years ago but he's not sure about the reason for this. You arrange some blood tests which show he has an eGFR of 46ml/min/1.73m2. 


These questions are provided to prompt you to consider the key points of the case. They can form the basis for a case-based discussion with your Educational Supervisor and will assist you in writing reflective entries in your ePortfolio. The questions are examples to trigger reflection and are not intended to be comprehensive. 


                             Core Competence    

Fitness to practise
This concerns the development of professional values, behaviours and personal resilience and preparation for career-long development and revalidation. It includes having insight into when your own performance, conduct or health might put patients at risk, as well as taking action to protect patients. 


What are my thoughts on the private sector providing 'well person' checks? 

What difficult issues might be raised by the results from these checks? 

Maintaining an ethical approach
This addresses the importance of practising ethically, with integrity and a respect for diversity. 



Knowing more about his mother's kidney problem might be very helpful here, but raises issues regarding medical confidentiality – how can I explore this ethically? 

How would I respond to health enquiries from an employer who provide screening for employees? 

Communication and consultation
This is about communication with patients, the use of recognised consultation techniques, establishing patient partnerships, managing challenging consultations, third-party consulting and the use of interpreters. 






What do I need to find out about this patient's ideas and concerns and expectations regarding his health?  

What strategies could I use to explore how much Nigel already knows about kidney disease given the family history of a kidney transplant? 

How can I explore how this family history might be impacting on his own concerns? 

How do I explain to the patient what the cause of his abnormal urine dipstick and blood results might be? 
Data gathering and interpretation  
This is about interpreting the patient's narrative, clinical record and biographical data. It also concerns the use of investigations. 
What is the significance of an eGFR of 46ml/min/1.73m2? 

What other investigations might I want to carry out?  
Clinical Examination and Procedural Skills
This is about the adoption of an appropriate and proficient approach to clinical examination and procedural skills. 
What factors affect the accuracy of urine dipstick testing? 

How would I assess fluid balance status? 
Making decisions
This is about having a conscious, structured approach to decision-making; within the consultation and in wider areas of practice. 
How do I decide whether or not referral to secondary care is indicated and if so to which specialty (urology or nephrology) and with what urgency?  
Clinical management 
This concerns the recognition and management of common medical conditions encountered in generalist medical care. It includes safe prescribing and medicines management approaches. 
What are the indications for referral to secondary care for investigation of haematuria, proteinuria or reduced eGFR?  

Managing medical complexity  
This is about aspects of care beyond managing straightforward problems. It includes multi-professional management of co-morbidity and poly-pharmacy, as well as uncertainty and risk. It also covers appropriate referral, planning and organising complex care, promoting recovery and rehabilitation. 



It is possible this represents an inherited kidney disease and will have implications for Nigel's relationships with his mother, wider family and children. How would I explore this with him?  

What issues might arise when considering whether someone with a genetic condition should be advised to inform their relatives that they may have inherited the condition? What if they decline to inform their relatives? 
Working with colleagues and in teams
This is about working effectively with other professionals to ensure good patient care. It includes sharing information with colleagues, effective service navigation, use of team skill mix, applying leadership, management and team-working skills in real-life practice, and demonstrating flexibility with regard to career development. 
If I decide to refer Nigel to the local Kidney Unit, how can I collaborate with them to provide high quality care for him? 
Improving performance, learning and teaching 
This is about maintaining performance and effective CPD for oneself and others. This includes self-directed adult learning, leading clinical care and service development, quality improvement and research activity. 
Where can I find out more about CKD and AKI?  

How do I maintain my knowledge of rare conditions such as inherited kidney disease? 
Organisational management and leadership
This is about the understanding of organisations and systems, the appropriate use of administration systems, effective record keeping and utilisation of IT for the benefit of patient care. It also includes structured care planning, using new technologies to access and deliver care and developing relevant business and financial management skills. 
What systems can help with effective primary care monitoring and recall of patients with chronic diseases such as CKD? 

What role do IT systems such as EMIS 'Patient Access' have for helping patients engage with their chronic disease management? What issues are raised by these systems? 
Practising holistically, safeguarding and promoting health 
This is about the physical, psychological, socioeconomic and cultural dimensions of health. It includes considering feelings as well as thoughts, encouraging health improvement, preventative medicine, self-management and care planning with patients and carers. 
What impact might kidney disease have on a patient's life?  

What is the place of 'well person' checks? What ethical issues are raised by these?  
Community orientation  
This is about involvement in the health of the local population. It includes understanding the need to build community engagement and resilience, family and community-based interventions, as well as the global and multi-cultural aspects of delivering evidence-based, sustainable healthcare. 
How can we promote increased awareness of kidney disease among our local population? 

Are there any communities locally who may be at higher risk of kidney disease?  

How to learn this area of practice

Work-based learning

General practice is where the vast majority of patients with kidney and urological health issues present. GPs have a key role in identifying and managing the majority of patients with CKD. The UK Renal Association website has an excellent UKeCKD Guide available on their website. These concise pragmatic guidelines can be referred to when managing patients identified with CKD.

Some GP specialty trainees will have dedicated hospital placements with renal medicine or urology teams, where the management of acute or complex cases can be observed.

Kidney problems are very common among medical inpatients; nearly all hospital training posts will bring some exposure to CKD and AKI in particular. Trainees with paediatric placements may encounter childhood renal and urology problems.

Self-directed learning

You can find e-Learning module(s) relevant to this topic guide at e-Learning for Healthcare and at RCGP Learning. The RCGP have a toolkit on Acute Kidney Injury

Learning with other healthcare professionals

CKD is a chronic disease and has significant overlap with other chronic conditions, in particular diabetes, hypertension and vascular disease. Experience gained with specialist nurses working in these fields will often include experience of managing CKD.

District nurses are particular experts on catheter management and will be able to give tips and advice on this area.

Examples of how this area of practice may be tested in the MRCGP

Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) 

  • Monitoring of chronic kidney disease 
  • Drug therapy for prostatic cancer 
  • Investigations for haematuria 

Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) 

  • Middle-aged man has abdominal and loin pain. Examination expected. 
  • Woman with diabetes and hypertension is recalled urgently to discuss a sudden drop in renal function. She is recovering from gastroenteritis. 
  • Young woman with multiple sclerosis wants to discuss worsening urinary incontinence

Workplace-based Assessment (WPBA) 

  • Observed Clinical Examination and Procedural Skills (CEPS) on a prostate examination in a man with a raised PSA 
  • Learning log reflecting on a teenager who delayed several months before attending with a testicular swelling  
  • Audit – Looking at the prescribing of long-term antibiotics for patients with recurrent UTIs 

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