Hospitals in the UK are fast running out of kidney dialysis equipment that is vital in keeping up to a third of coronavirus patients alive.
Doctors across the country are expressing their need for kidney equipment such as kidney dialysis machines and blood filtering kits, which are essential for COVID-19 patients that develop severe problems with their kidneys.
Dr. Ron Daniels, an intensive care consultant at Birmingham Hospital, said: “We are seeing one in three patients who are being ventilated with COVID-19 also needing kidney support. That is putting real pressure on the kidney machines. We have no spares lying around, so we are seeing shortages.”
He added: “To manage, one patient is placed on them one day and a second the next.”
Dr. Daniele Bryden, the vice-dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, has also expressed her concern with this issue, saying: “For example, in China, about 15% of patients in intensive care needed kidney support and we are noticing a higher number in the UK. In London, some areas are reporting 25% of patients are needing some degree of support with kidneys.”
She went on to say: “No one knows why that is, but one thing it may be is that we are not seeing the same population being affected, we may have a higher population in the UK of more people at risk of kidney failure. Those with high blood pressure and diabetes are more at risk of ending up in intensive care with COVID-19 . . . there are also groups of people with low level risk getting kidney issues when they become unwell.”
NHS England alerted hospitals this week of the limited supply of kidney filtration kits within the system, saying that their three main suppliers, Baxter Health Care, Fresenius Medical Care (UK) and B Braun Medical, who are responsible for 70% of the kits used by the NHS, are running low.
It said: “The current supply issues are due to the recent demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. The clinical presentation of COVID-19 patients admitted to critical care suggest that there is a higher than usual demand for renal replacement therapy (RRT) in patients where viral disease is the reason for admission.”
Hospitals up and down the country have been told to share their equipment with other local hospitals if they are running low and to use both the machines and the filters conservatively.
It is not yet known whether the kidneys are a major target of the coronavirus or whether they are just another organ that is failing due to the devastating and ruthless effects of COVID-19.
A spokesperson for Kidney Care UK has said that the charity is “extremely concerned” over this national shortage in vital equipment, with Fiona Loud, the policy director, saying:
“No patients in ICUs should be put at risk due to a shortage of supplies and any proposed solution must not impact detrimentally on the care and treatment provided to existing long term kidney patients or their recommended dialysis treatment.”