Lifestyle key to kidney health: Hemant Kulkarni

Kidney specialist Hemant Kulkarni flanked by patients John Bloor and Joanne Whinwray. Picture: Jon Hewson         www.communitypix.com.au   d443743
Kidney specialist Hemant Kulkarni flanked by patients John Bloor and Joanne Whinwray. Picture: Jon Hewson        www.communitypix.com.au d443743

KIDNEY specialist Hemant Kulkarni says in an ideal world any stable patient with kidney failure would have the option of a transplant and not have to go on dialysis.

“Dialysis is the equivalent of only about 8-10 per cent of the normal kidney function,” he said.

“You can never replicate the normal kidney function, even with the best form of dialysis.

“That is why we want to prevent people from going on dialysis in the first place.

“Dialysis options are also quite expensive at a cost of between $45,000 to $90,000 per patient per year and there are about 58 patients in the Armadale haemodialysis unit, plus about 20-30 people on home dialysis in the surrounding area.”

Dr Kulkarni said once a transplant took place, the new kidney would almost always start to function as a normal healthy kidney again.

“The patients no longer need dialysis, their survival is significantly improved, the cost to the health system is significantly reduced,” he said.

“They can go back to work and are no longer attached to the hospital.

“Medication and follow up appointments are needed to make sure the transplanted kidney survives for the longest possible time and we expect the person to get back to full health as if they didn’t have a kidney problem.”

Dr Kulkarni said humans were essentially born with a spare kidney and donors lived normal lives with one kidney.

Kidney transplant surgery is also low risk as it is one of the oldest forms of organ transplant.

The survival rate for both the kidney and recipient after the first year is 99 per cent.

Recipients can live full lives after their transplant.

Dr Kulkarni is an advocate for kidney transplants or home dialysis if a transplant can’t be performed, but he said a healthy lifestyle could prevent chronic kidney disease altogether.

“Kidneys work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take by-products out of the blood, but many people are unaware about the major role these organs play in maintaining general health and well being,” he said.

“Kidney problems are increasing substantially due to the aging population and increased incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure.

“If a person suffers from kidney problems it often leads to other chronic diseases, including heart disease and its complications.

“Seventy per cent of kidney patients with deteriorating kidney function die before they end up on dialysis because of the heart and cardiovascular problems – it’s all linked, it’s all problems with the blood vessels.

“Once kidney disease is advanced it is difficult to stop the progression and that’s why it is very important to try prevent it from the beginning.”

Kidneys with reduced function have problems filtering the accumulation of poisons in the blood. In chronic cases, dialysis, an artificial way of cleaning the blood, is needed.

Lifestyle factors can prevent kidney disease or slow its progress, including healthy diet with reduced sugars, fat intake, preservatives and phosphates and regular exercise.