Press release

Rare kidney condition explored through medical illustrations and animation

Published on 7 October 2020

A University of Dundee student has used 3D modelling and animation to educate healthcare professionals and the general public about a rare and debilitating kidney condition she suffered from

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A University of Dundee student has used 3D modelling and animation to educate healthcare professionals and the general public about a rare and debilitating kidney condition she suffered from.

Caitlin La (28) designed and developed her digital learning space as part of the final project of her MSc Medical Art course. This is one of the dozens of exhibits at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design Masters Showcase 2020, which opens later this month.  

Caitlin was diagnosed with Nephroptosis in 2016, a rare condition where the kidney drops more than 5cm towards the pelvis when moving from a lying down position to an upright position. The condition mainly affects young slim women and the majority don’t show any symptoms. However, for a small proportion of patients these symptom can be severe.

For several years, Caitlin struggled to find a specialist with knowledge of her condition in order to receive a diagnosis. Her online learning space aims to provide information to both healthcare professionals and patients on everything from the history of the condition to the tests necessary to confirm a diagnosis.

After receiving her diagnosis, Caitlin used a variety of online support groups to get in contact with other Nephroptosis patients. Speaking to other people with this rare condition was a source of hope for Caitlin and inspired her to spread the word even further.

The website features Caitlin’s digital illustrations and animations of the kidneys to help patients and doctors understand the condition in more detail.  

Caitlin, originally from Arbroath said, “After losing a lot of weight due to another illness I began to unknowingly develop Nephroptosis which left me debilitated for around a year and a half. I spent that time seeing countless doctors that were baffled by my symptoms and some even tried to dismiss my concerns. As my kidney dropped 8cm into my pelvis when I was upright, this caused constant abdominal pain until I could lie flat. This left me having to be pushed in a wheelchair if I wanted to move around.

“Not being believed by so many doctors was so frustrating for me and really motivated me to create a resource that would help others avoid this long and painful process.  After being left without any answers I took it upon myself to find any possible conditions that would explain my horrific symptoms.

“After researching for a few months I came across a paper called ‘Nephroptosis: Hung up on the past’ which perfectly summed up all the symptoms I had been facing. It was at this point that things started to look up for me as I was able to get in contact with a surgeon in London that could perform the corrective surgery I needed. After getting in touch with this surgeon I was able to get all the appropriate tests to accurately diagnose Nephroptosis and get on the road to recovery.

“Nephroptosis is still a misunderstood and unheard of condition within the medical field today but it is my hope that I can help raise awareness of this rare condition to help others get the medical care they need.”

Caitlin is currently undertaking an internship with the Royal College of Surgeons of England creating medical illustrative content and is planning on pursuing medical animation and illustration full time.

The Masters Showcase is an online display taking place in the absence of the annual Masters Show, which has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is hoped that a physical exhibition of work from this year’s graduating students can be arranged in the future and the Masters Showcase aims to provide them with the best possible platform for their talents in the meantime.

The online exhibition celebrates transformative design and visually stunning art from six of the UK's most innovative and exciting postgraduate courses – MSc Animation & VFX, MFA Art & Humanities, MDes Comics & Graphic Novels, MSc Forensic Art & Facial Identification, MSc Medical Art and MSc Product Design.


Hannah Adams

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 385131