Acute tubular necrosis or (ATN) is a medical condition involving the death of tubular cells that form the tubule that transports urine to the ureters while reabsorbing 99% of the water (and highly concentrating the salts and metabolic byproducts). Tubular cells continually replace themselves and if the cause of ATN is removed then recovery is likely. ATN presents with acute renal failure and is one of the most common causes of ARF. The presence of "muddy brown casts" of epithelial cells found in the urine during urinalysis is pathognomonic for ATN.
It may be classified as either toxic or ischemic. Toxic ATN occurs when the tubular cells are exposed to a toxic substance (nephrotoxic ATN). Ischemic ATN occurs when the tubular cells do not get enough oxygen, a condition they are highly sensitive to due to their very high metabolism.
Histopathology: Toxic ATN is characterized by proximal tubular epithelium necrosis (no nuclei, intense eosinophilic homogeneous cytoplasm, but preserved shape) due to a toxic substance (poisons, organic solvents, drugs, heavy metals). Necrotic cells fall into the tubule lumen, obliterating it, and determining acute renal failure. Basement membrane is intact, so the tubular epithelium regeneration is possible. Glomeruli are not affected.