Ureteropelvic Junction UPJ Obstruction

What are ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) obstructions?

In a normal urinary system, urine flows from the kidney through the ureter and into the bladder. In children with a ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) obstruction, there is a blockage between the ureter and the kidney that can slow or block the flow of urine. In severe cases, the urine is unable to drain from the kidney, and can stretch the organ and cause permanent damage.

  • A UPJ obstruction occurs when a blockage between your child’s kidney and ureter impedes the flow of urine.
  • UPJ obstructions are not very common, occurring in approximately 1 out of every 1,500 babies.
  • Many of these blockages are small enough that they won’t damage your child’s kidney.
  • Severe blockages can impair the kidney’s ability to drain urine, which can lead to permanent kidney damage.
  • If your child’s UPJ obstruction is severe enough to put her kidney at risk, a single surgical procedure can be performed to remove the blockage.

How we care for UPJ obstructions

One benefit to being at Boston Children’s is the presence of our excellent Advanced Fetal Care Center. If your baby is diagnosed before birth with a UPJ obstruction, our multidisciplinary team will follow the condition closely from gestation through birth and beyond.

If your child’s doctor determines that your child needs surgery, you’ll meet with your child’s doctor and work together to design a treatment plan that fits your child and the condition. Boston Children's is home to the largest pediatric Urology Department in the world; we perform more than 3,100 surgical procedures each year and care for almost 18,000 children from throughout the country and all over the world.

We have pioneered the use of robotic surgery for complex procedures through small incisions, reducing pain, recovery time, and hospital stays. Today we perform more pediatric robotic surgeries than any other hospital in the world, and train physicians from around the country and the world.

Ureteropelvic junction obstruction: Reviewed by Richard N. Yu, MD, PhD
© Boston Children’s Hospital; posted in 2012