Monday, February 11, 2008

Dialysis

This is a picture of the 1st dialysis machine, invented by the Dutch physician Willem Kolff in 1943-1945.

Up until this invention, the diagnosis of renal failure was synonymous with death. In fact, the first 16 patients that Dr. Kolff tried to dialyze went on to die. However, the 17th patient, a 67-year-old woman admitted to the hospital with acute kidney failure, was saved after a week-long treatment with the device, and went on to live an additional six years after her kidney function had returned to normal. Now there are about 375,000 patients in the U.S. alone who continue to survive based on the invention of dialysis.

I'm currently doing the Dialysis rotation at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Each day I help supervise the dialysis treatments of probably about 15 patients. I'll be the first to admit that there's a lot of problems with dialysis--but for many patients it's literally the difference between life and death.

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