What to expect at your first nephrologist visit

Kidney problems can cause you to have lots questions that should be answered by a specialist. If you are preparing to go to your first visit with a nephrologist (kidney doctor), you may be wondering what will happen at the visit.

Usually during your first visit to a nephrologist, he or she will review your medical history and do a complete physical exam. To determine how your kidneys are functioning, he or she will order blood and urine tests. A kidney ultrasound may be required, and additional studies may be necessary.

Communicating with your doctor

This initial office visit is an opportunity to get to know your nephrologist. Before the visit, prepare a written list of questions so that you can fully understand how your kidneys work and how the current condition is affecting your health. You may want to bring a notebook with you every time you visit so that you can keep track of all of the information you receive.

To help your nephrologist better understand your current physical state, be sure to bring with you all of the paperwork requested by your doctor’s office, which includes:

  • Laboratory test results
  • Radiology reports (CT scan, sonogram, etc.)
  • Any special diet guidelines that you follow
  • Any medications that you are currently taking
  • A list of all of your current doctors with contact information
  • Your and your family’s medical history

When you meet with your nephrologist, it is important to be truthful about your health. Discuss what you see as possible stumbling blocks to good health. Are you a smoker who has tried to quit before but was not able to? Do you find it difficult to stick to a particular eating plan? Do you sometimes miss taking scheduled doses of your medications? These are important things your nephrologist should know about your health to better diagnose and treat your condition.

Be sure to ask all of your questions about treatment options. Ask what you can expect to happen with your kidneys now and in the years ahead. If there is anything that is not clear about your diagnosis or treatment plan, request that the nephrologist clarify the information before you leave his or her office.

Future visits with your kidney health care team

Often, someone with kidney problems will get support from a kidney health care team that includes the nephrologist, a dietitian, a social worker and a nurse.

If your nephrologist has determined that you have a stage of CKD that doesn’t require dialysis, you’ll visit the nephrologist every one to three months. He or she will check your test results and evaluate your medical condition, treat any new problems that have arisen since the last time you were in the office, and prescribe or refill medications. The nephrologist may refer you to other health care specialists such as a dietitian for help with your diet and nutrition if needed.

If your doctor decides that you need dialysis or a kidney transplant, he or she will tell you about your dialysis treatment options and may refer you to a transplant center. People on dialysis usually meet with their nephrologist at least once a month. Your doctor may also make changes to your dialysis prescription. Be sure to tell your nephrologist about any changes in your health. When you have other health problems such as hypertension, diabetes or anemia, your nephrologist will also prescribe or adjust medications in addition to your kidney treatments.


A nephrologist specializes in diagnosing and treating kidney issues. On your first visit to a nephrologist, he or she will gather information from you. Although kidney problems may make you feel anxious, it is reassuring to know that your nephrologist is someone who has the expertise to help preserve kidney function and treat kidney failure.

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