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Doubling Frequency of Dialysis May Help Kidney Failure Patients
Date:11/22/2010

SATURDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Kidney failure patients who double the number of weekly dialysis treatments typically prescribed had significantly better heart function, overall health and general quality of life, new research indicates.

The finding stems from an analysis that compared the impact of the 40-year-old standard of care -- three dialysis treatments per week, for three to four hours per session -- with a six-day a week treatment regimen involving sessions of 2.5 to three hours per session.

Launched in 2006, the comparison involved 245 dialysis patients assigned to either a standard dialysis schedule or the high-frequency option. All participants underwent MRIs to assess heart muscle structure, and all completed quality-of-life surveys.

In addition to improved cardiovascular health and overall health, the analysis further revealed that two concerns faced by most kidney failure patients -- blood pressure and phosphate level control -- also fared better under the more frequent treatment program.

Dr. Glenn Chertow, chief of the nephrology division at Stanford University School of Medicine, reports his team's observations in the Nov. 20 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, to coincide with a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in Denver.

"Kidneys work seven days a week, 24 hours a day," Chertow noted in a Stanford University news release. "You could imagine why people might feel better if dialysis were to more closely mimic kidney function. But you have to factor in the burden of additional sessions, the travel and the cost."

To the latter point, the authors noted that dialysis is expensive, and Medicare currently only covers the conventional three-day per week approach, which over the course of a year amounts to somewhere between $75,000 to $100,000. A doubling of this standard would therefore amount to an expensive proposition
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