As we all learn more and more about COVID-19, the burning question in many nephrologists is the risk to patients on dialysis mainly in-center HD? While we all are developing guidelines of how to triage and place patients on in-center HD who have symptoms of COVID-19, what is their risk of severe infection vs. death from this virus compared to the general population?
So far, while we are still learning about the Italian, South Korean, Japanese experience, the only pre published data is from Wuhan, China dialysis units. Ma et al describe their experience and it is quite interesting what they found.
Brief summary of the study
1. It is a single HD unit epidemic course of infected patients compared to non infected and staff that were effected.
2. Of 230 HD patients, 37 were infected( 37%) and 2 medical staff of 33 staff members. During that time frame, the HD center had 7 deaths, 6 were COVID-19 positive patients. This made the mortality of 3%( higher than usual for that dialysis unit)
3. Presumed cause of death was hyperkalemia and cardiac events and not pulmonary cause
4. 62% were men, mean age 66 years.
5. 59% patients had bilateral CT scan involvement, 41% had unilateral findings
6. Serum levels of all cytokines measured( Il-4,6,10, TNF .etc) were lower levels compared to non HD patients with COVID-19
7. In their discussion, they do mention that the deaths were due to under-dialysis and hyperkalemia given the fear of contracting the virus-- interesting analysis.
8. Interestingly, none of the 37 patients in their center were admitted to the ICU due to severe PNA
9. The authors think that the HD patients don't mount a severe immune response and don't have that cytokine storm as seen in healthy adults leading to the "itis" leading to less organ damage.
This study is a start. More data from S.Korea, USA, Japan and Italy might help us in better information to decide on the care of the HD patient with COVID-19
Recently also, there is a case report published on HD patient treated successfully with anti virals in China in Kidney Medicine
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