Fewer patients sought treatment for kidney failure in early months of COVID-19 pandemic

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In the four months following the COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival in the U.S., the number of patients initiating treatment for kidney failure declined by 30%, a new study in JAMA Network Open found. Notably, Black patients and patients living in counties with high numbers of COVID-19 deaths initiated treatment with significantly worse levels of kidney function when compared to prior years.

Lead author Kevin Nguyen, an investigator at Brown University’s School of Public Health, said that unfortunately, the results do not mean that patients with chronic kidney disease had fewer incidents of failure or had healthier kidneys. Rather, the decline in patients with kidney failure likely reflects decisions to delay treatment or changes in how health care was delivered early in the pandemic. Treatments often include regular dialysis or kidney transplants, two options disrupted after COVID-19’s arrival.

“Treatment in the form of dialysis or a transplant is essential for the survival of people with chronic kidney disease,” Nguyen said. “Missed routine care could be potentially catastrophic. So understanding whether and how these initiations of treatment changed with respect to the pandemic is really important.” READ MORE