Some of the sickest COVID-19 patients having kidney problems

Posted at 3:28 PM, Apr 24, 2020

Some of the sickest coronavirus patients are having kidney problems and it's raising concerns about what's needed for treatment.

Early reports out of China showed 10% of patients had early evidence of decreased kidney function when they went to the hospital. It's worse in the U.S.

“As the pandemic matured in the United States, the extent of kidney failure that happened among those very sick patients who needed to be in the ICU, that's been a surprise,” said Dr. Alan Kliger, Co-chair of the American Society of Nephrology's COVID-19 Response Team.

Dr. Alan Kliger says 20 to 40% of ICU patients have evidence of kidney damage.

That's led to a five-fold increase in demand for machines, cartridges, and fluids used for dialysis and kidney treatments in places like New York.

The American Society of Nephrology and hospitals have been talking with companies to meet this demand. They're trying to anticipate where the need will be next.

“We know already that some of the large dialysis companies have shipped up to hundreds of outpatient dialysis machines to hospitals to use, but those outpatient dialysis machines are really only one of the kinds of machines that are most effective in the hospital,” said Dr. Kliger.

This coronavirus kidney issue comes on top of the nearly half a million patients already getting dialysis treatments at outpatient facilities in the U.S. because of chronic conditions.

Dr. Kliger says the supplies in these outpatient facilities are different than what's needed in ICUs. They aren't competing for resources, but having enough staff is a challenge, especially in intensive care.