Letters to the Editor

Pain Management in Patients with ADPKD


Am Fam Physician. 2015 Mar 15;91(6):348-352.

Original article: Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease

Issue date: September 1, 2014

Available at: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0901/p303.html

to the editor: We read this article with interest, and we would like to comment on the issue of pain management in patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). We agree that pain management in ADPKD should include evaluation for concomitant illness. Two patients in our practice with ADPKD who presented with severe chronic low back and abdominal pain illustrate the importance of searching for extrarenal causes.

The first patient, a 55-year-old woman with stage 3 chronic kidney disease secondary to ADPKD, required opioid analgesics because of severe chronic back and abdominal pain, which were initially attributed to polycystic kidneys and liver. She was later diagnosed with spondyloarthrosis and osteoporosis with a compression fracture of the sixth thoracic vertebra.

The second patient, a 51-year-old man with ADPKD and stage 2 chronic kidney disease, had severe chronic back pain thought to be caused by enlarged kidneys. Magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated scoliosis and advanced spondyloarthrosis (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Magnetic resonance imaging shows scoliosis and advanced spondyloarthrosis in a 51-year-old man with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease and stage 2 chronic kidney disease.

Figure 1.

Magnetic resonance imaging shows scoliosis and advanced spondyloarthrosis in a 51-year-old man with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease and stage 2 chronic kidney disease.

In ADPKD, enlargement of renal and liver cysts causes increased abdominal girth, leading to increased lumbar lordosis, which predisposes patients to degenerative changes of the spine. Additionally, asymmetry in renal cyst enlargement leads to chronic postural alteration and lumbosacral disk disease.1

Biochemical abnormalities in the homeostasis of calcium and phosphorus begin early in patients with chronic kidney disease, leading to an increase in fracture risk, including spinal compression fractures.2,3

To conclude, disorders of the spine should always be included in the differential diagnosis of patients with ADPKD and back pain.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. Bajwa ZH, et al. Pain management in polycystic kidney disease. Kidney Int. 2001;60(5):1631–1644.

2. Lima GA, et al. Osteoporosis management in patient with renal function impairment. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 2014;58(5):530–539.

3. Kazama JJ, et al. Uremic osteoporosis. Kidney Int Suppl. 2013;3(5):446–450.

in reply: We thank Dr. Niemczyk and colleagues for the additional insight into the evaluation and management of pain in patients with ADPKD and illustrating that the underlying etiology responsible for pain can be multifactorial. Clinicians should also be aware that a debilitating cycle may ensue when chronic pain contributes to or worsens depression and anxiety, negatively affects key factors such as interpersonal relationships and important activities, and worsens the patient's overall disability.1

Dr. Niemczyk's case presentations are a reminder of how the advancing disease process for ADPKD can indirectly contribute to pain via acceleration of other disease processes, including postural variation and spinal degeneration, and worsening chronic kidney disease leading to renal osteodystrophy. More specifically, for those who have adverse habits related to poor postural tone, the Alexander technique offers a nonpharmacologic approach to diminishing self-propagating and damaging habits, thereby improving coordination, as well as pain management and perception.2

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. Young CC, et al. Transition from acute to chronic pain and disability: a model including cognitive, affective, and trauma factors. Pain. 2008;134(1–2):69–79.

2. Woodman JP, et al. Evidence for the effectiveness of Alexander technique lessons in medical health-related conditions: a systematic review. Int J Clin Pract. 2012;66(1):98–112.

Send letters to afplet@aafp.org, or 11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy., Leawood, KS 66211-2680. Include your complete address, e-mail address, and telephone number. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors.

Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed at time of submission. Submission of a letter will be construed as granting the AAFP permission to publish the letter in any of its publications in any form. The editors may edit letters to meet style and space requirements.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, Associate Deputy Editor for AFP Online.



Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Mar 1, 2021

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article