Renal Failure Treatment

Medicine has made many advances, turning one-time death sentences into chronic conditions. That's the case with renal disease. But the better treatment is causing another problem. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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End-stage renal disease is the diagnosis when the kidneys completely fail and dialysis or transplantation is needed in order to live.During the 1970's, dialysis did the procedure at home at night. It would take eight hours each time. Now there are centers where it takes about four hours three times a week. While the treatment has improved, one Texas physician is worried that people are not taking responsibility for their health in order to avoid renal failure all together.

"It can be done; it's just hard to do. High blood pressure accounts for about 20 to 30 percent of patients on dialysis. Diabetes accounts for 50 percent. We know and it's been proven that if you do tight control, good, excellent control of blood pressure and diabetes, that that will delay the progression of chronic kidney failure."

Doctor Glen Stanbaugh has been treating patients for 30 years.When dialysis was proven to improve patients' conditions, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid started covering the service. It now spends $65,000 per patient per year for typical treatment. Stanbaugh says end stage renal disease will strain the federal and state programs because of the growing number of people who need dialysis or transplantation.

"And the predictions are that it's going to continue to increase. The danger is we won't have enough funds to provide dialysis or transplant in the future. In Texas the number of patients on dialysis with end stage renal disease is expected to double between now and 2010."

While money would be needed, Stanbaugh says a more effective approach would be to prevent the disease in the first place. That means more public education about controlling diabetes and hypertension.

"The major symptom is maybe back pain or tiredness. Even when you've lost 90 percent of kidney function you may not have any specific symptoms."

Stanbaugh says it makes it all that more difficult to get people to take the disease seriously and take steps to slow its progression. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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