THURSDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Many Americans who experience acute kidney injury that does not get better do not see a kidney specialist within a year, which suggests that doctors need to do more to identify and treat these patients, a new study reveals.
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Acute kidney injury, an abrupt or rapid decline in kidney function, is a potentially deadly condition. In some cases it is caused by medical or surgical complications that deprive the kidneys of normal blood flow for long periods of time.
This explains why acute kidney injury often occurs in hospitalized patients, the researchers noted in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.
For the study, investigators analyzed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data from 3,929 survivors of acute kidney injury who were hospitalized between January 2003 and December 2008, and continued to have poor kidney function a month after they developed the injury.
After one year of follow-up, 22 percent of the patients had died, according to the report published in the Dec. 8 online edition of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
Only 8.5 percent of all the patients were referred to a kidney specialist before they died, started dialysis or had an improvement in kidney function, the study authors reported.
The severity of acute kidney injury did not affect whether patients were referred to a kidney specialist, they pointed out.
"This study shows that only a minority of patients who do not recover their kidney function after an [acute kidney injury] event are seen by a kidney specialist, highlighting an important opportunity for a more integrated approach in maintaining the kidney health of these patients," Dr. Michael Matheny, of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System Veterans Administration, said in the news release.
"The findings also underscore the need for more research to help identify those patients who are at highest risk for persistent kidney problems and who might benefit from the input of a kidney specialist," he added.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: American Society of Nephrology, news release, Dec. 8, 2011