Dialysis: Almost 70 decades of hard work and progress

Like many other medical procedures and aids, dialysis has been around for a while. For the past 70 decades, it has helped thousands (if not millions) of individuals whose kidneys stopped working properly.

Kidneys can fail due to a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes genetics get in the way and make them stop working, or certain environmental conditions or experiences change the way they work and lead individuals to a kidney failure or a chronic kidney disease. This has happened to humans for as long as they have existed and it will probably keep on happening for as long as we are on earth.

Regardless the reason why kidneys fail, for those whose bodies are not able to filter the waste that runs in the blood, undergoing dialysis procedures becomes necessary.

Nowadays, this is a solution easy to picture. But, has anyone asked how we managed to make it until this point? Years of sacrifice and medical progress had to get in the way for us to be able to know dialysis as it works today.

In this article, Joe Cosgrove will share some historical facts related to dialysis.

Back in the 40’s

Dialysis is a 20th-century invention. It was first invented by Dr. Willem Kolff back in 1943 when this young doctor from the Netherlands decided to construct the first artificial kidney or dialyzer.

The process of developing this kidney was long and took Dr. Kolff more than 10 years. It started when he was a student at the University of Groningen Hospital, in his natal country. Kolff watched how a young man died in a painful and slow way because his kidneys fail and there was nothing to be done. This situation inspired Kolff and moved him to create an artifact that could work as the kidneys.

Kolff read every book available at the University’s library that talked about the kidneys and how the filtered waste from the blood. This is how bumped into an article written in 1913 by a famous pharmacologist named John Abel. In this article, Abel described the hemodialysis process in animals. Abel’s work inspired Kolff to create an artificial kidney.

When Kolff was doing his first experiments, the World War II started, forcing him to work at a Dutch hospital in a remote location once the Nazis overtook the country. This hard conditions never stopped him and he kept on working on the artificial kidney project.

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Image courtesy of rob koopman at Flickr.com

Eventually, he came up with a device made with sausage skin, a washing machine, orange juice cans and other items that would allow him to filter waste from the blood. His invention took place under the Nazi domain and risking his life to make it possible.

By 1943, Kolff’s kidney was finished and ready to be tested. Until 1945, 16 patients were treated unsuccessfully. It wasn’t until that same year that a woman with a uremic coma was successfully treated and regained consciousness.

This is how Kolff’s dialyzer became the first one in history successfully used to treat kidney diseases. It became part of the standard treatment for kidney failure for the next 10 years.

There is hope in the 50’s

In the years to come, Kolff’s invention was improved to treat both acute renal failure and chronic stage renal disease. This was a rough path since most doctors in the 50’s believed that patients with kidney problems couldn’t undergo dialysis for long periods of time and that no man could come up with an artificial kidney that could replace the functions of a real one.

Another challenge that had to be faced back then was the strong damage veins and arteries of patients were suffering. This makes hard for patients to take the treatment for long periods of time.

It wasn’t until Professor Dr. Belding Scribner at the University of Washington came up with the idea of connecting plastic tubes to the dialyzer, and inserting one of these tubes into the patient’s arteries and veins, that would remain open for as long as the treatment lasted. These tubes had the shape of a U that would work as a bypass.

Later in time, this device was improved with a new material called Teflon and operated as a dialysis bypass that allowed patients to be treated for longer periods of time, extending their lives until an organ was available for a transplant.

From the 60’s to today

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Image courtesy of Amber Case at Flickr.com

Dialysis patients became numerous and facilities couldn’t serve all of them. Committees would decide who was going to dialysis and who had to wait. This is how bioethics committees were created and healthcare treatments became fairly available for many individuals who needed them. Portable dialysis machines were created and people could undergo dialysis at their homes.

During the past five decades, dialysis machines have been improved by technology. Kidney medicine has also evolved in a way kidney conditions can be treated with multiple alternatives. Some people use the peritoneal dialysis treatment and some other decide to undergo the hemodialysis one. Regardless the options, it is thanks to doctors like Kolff and Scribner that dialysis treatment became real.

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GPCC to Host First Corporate Exchange

Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce pic

Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
Image: chamberphl.com

In winter 2015, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce will offer an opportunity for local business leaders to engage with one another in a series of round-table discussions. The organization will host its inaugural Corporate Exchange on Tuesday, December 8, welcoming 30 executives from the Philadelphia metropolitan area for networking and best practice sharing.

With the event, the GPCC seeks to provide a collaborative environment for professionals in the rewarding, yet often isolating, role of the business leader. The Corporate Exchange is open to company founders, owners, chief executive officers, presidents, and other leading executives. Attendees must be chamber members with the Corporate, Pacesetter, Executive, Premier, Partner, or Visionary distinction or part of the President’s or Chairman’s Circle.

The exclusive event will facilitate discussion on several pertinent topics specific to business leaders’ responsibilities. Participants will be able to solicit and offer advice on matters such as time management and critical decision making. The event will take place in the DiBona Room of the chamber’s Mars Conference Center at 200 South Broad Street. While the program is free to attend, interested executives must preregister to secure one of its limited spots.

How to reduce the chances of suffering renal failure

There is a worrying statistic in America: one in almost three Americans is on the verge of suffering any type of kidney disease due to diabetes, hereditary aspects, high blood pressure or kidney failure. Joe Cosgrove has previously pointed out several aspects on how to effectively reduce the chances of suffering any type of renal disease and how to cope with the dreary effects of both dialysis and other treatments for renal failure; however, here is a word of advice for those individuals who want to increase the chances of getting the most out of their kidneys while keeping them healthy.

First of all, and despite it being quite obvious, the vast majority of individuals are born with two kidneys. What people do not know, however, is that they can live just using one. On a daily basis, the kidneys can filter up to 200 liters of blood: in this process, they can also remove up to 2 liters of waste, water, and toxins. In fact, water and waste products often leave the body in the form of urine, thusly allowing the kidneys to regulate the body’s fluids and its levels. Kidneys are also responsible for producing and releasing hormones that are key in regulating blood pressure, producing more red blood cells and maintaining solid and healthy bones.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

Since the human body tends to wear off over time, the kidneys are not the exception. The kidneys stop working as they should slowly over the course of time, which is why most people often realize they suffer from any sort of kidney disease until it is too late. It is difficult to prevent it, since detecting it during early stages is no easy task. Thus, protecting the kidneys is something every individual should aim to irrespective of whether they have hereditary conditions or not:

Get Checked

Everyone is open to suffering from any type of kidney disease regardless of whether they keep a healthy lifestyle, or have hereditary conditions, or not. People who believe they are at risk for any type of kidney disease should not overlook the importance of getting their kidneys checked by their primary physician or a nephrologist. Since the kidneys do not show early symptoms of damage, most people tend to adopt a relaxed stance when it comes to taking the time to scheduling an appointment with their physicians. That is why prevention and checking often walk alongside each other.

Nonetheless, it is quite easy to check the kidneys. The first test is a urine test that aims to find the presence of albumin (a protein) in the fluid. Whenever an individual has got protein in their urine it is quite possible to assert that that individual is showing early symptoms of kidney failure. When there is just too much protein in the fluid, it means that the kidneys are failing and are starting to leak albumin or protein in this case. The second test aims to find creatinine in the blood flow. Creatine is one out of many different types of waste products that can be found in the body. It comes from muscle metabolism, and healthy kidneys remove it. This test is also used to determine an individual’s glomerular filtration rate, which is a statistic that is commonly used to reflect how well the kidneys filter waste products from the blood flow.

Control sugar levels

And control blood pressure as well. High blood pressure and diabetes are known for being two major causes of all sorts of kidney disease. Since the kidney is somewhat of a vascular organ—as it contains a myriad of different blood vessels—, diseases that affect these vessels such as diabetes and high blood pressure can ultimately inflict damage to the organs. In fact, even a minor degree of high blood pressure and diabetes can result in terrible kidney damage. As mentioned above, individuals, regardless of their current condition, should control both aspects in order to avoid falling victim of early kidney disease.

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Image courtesy of Burst at Pexels.com

Control weight

Keeping a healthy lifestyle is as important as the two aforementioned aspects. Weight plays a vital role in overall kidney health. Overweight, for instance, forces the body to work much harder in order for it to successfully filter all the waste products and meet metabolic needs. Besides, obesity and having excess weight can lead to the development of diabetes and pressure-related complications. Thus, it is quite important for individuals to maintain a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, working out from time to time and paying special attention to their weight. Weight loss and exercise is key when it comes to reducing the risk of developing both conditions. In fact, smoking also helps increase the chances of suffering any type of renal disease and high blood pressure, and it also worsens any condition. Quitting smoking, therefore, is crucial.

* Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com