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Korle-Bu Renal Unit to carry out kidney transplants this year

BY: Doreen Andoh

The Renal Unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital says it is concluding arrangements with its international partners to carry out kidney transplants at the unit this year.

Such an arrangement has become necessary because the burden of kidney disease is increasing at a rate of between 13 and 17 per cent.

This means that out of every 100 sampled Ghanaians, between 13 and 17 per cent of them will have various stages of chronic renal diseases.

A consultant physician and kidney specialist at the Department of Medicine at the hospital, Dr Winfred Baah, told the Daily Graphic in Accra last Friday that the arrangement had also become necessary in view of the lack of human resource to carry out kidney transplants in the country.

The last time the hospital carried out such a transplant was four years ago and Dr Baah explained that there had been a break in the delivery of kidney transplant services because of a disruption of the link between the unit and its UK partners.

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“Our major challenge in our attempt to sustain this service has been the lack of skilled human resource. We currently do not have surgeons with the capacity to carry out kidney transplants,” he said.

In addition to the collaboration between the renal unit and the UK partners, Dr Baah said, efforts were being made by the Ministry of Health to facilitate the training of surgeons to enhance healthcare delivery in the country.

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Dialysis

Currently at the unit, 260 patients are on dialysis, requiring three sessions a week, while many more are receiving different kinds of kidney disease treatment in other private and public health facilities.

“More worrisome is the fact that the incidence is high in the youth due to the abuse of herbal medications in particular and over-the-counter drugs, especially pain killers,” Dr Baah said.

He said globally chronic kidney disease was seen more in people between 50 and 70 years, but sadly in Ghana and other sub-Saharan countries, the disease was high among people between 30 and 50 years on the average.

He said although the burden was high, most affected people had to travel abroad to get transplant, apart from bearing the cost of travel and accommodation.

He said while stakeholders emphasised prevention through a healthy lifestyle and regular check-ups, they had also been advocating a healthcare system that was responsive to holistic kidney services.

Regulation

Dr Baah said to avoid or minimise abuses associated with organ acquisition, which could result in contract killings, organ trafficking, among other criminalities, to acquire the kidneys, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with all stakeholders, was currently working on a law to regulate kidney transplant.

He said the law would address most of the concerns raised by stakeholders, including who could donate, how to justify an organ for transplant and verify that life donors were not donating under compulsion.

Kidney disease

There are two main types of the manifestation of kidney disease, namely, acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease.

Acute kidney injury is the shutting down of the kidney temporarily due to certain conditions, such as heavy loss of fluid through bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea, and is reversible, while chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, is the gradual loss of kidney function permanently.

In other words, chronic kidney disease occurs when a disease or condition impairs kidney function, causing kidney damage, to worsen over many months or years.

“Your kidneys filter waste and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine. When chronic kidney disease reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and waste can build up in your body,” Dr Baah explained.

However, he said, untreated acute kidney failure could progress to chronic after a while.

Causes

He said there were five progressive stages with regard to chronic kidney disease.

He said stages one to three, and in some cases four, did not present any symptoms at all, indicating that it was the basic reason regular check-ups were very key.

He mentioned the top three causes of chronic kidney disease in Ghana to be diabetes, high blood pressure and glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the kidney's filtering units (glomeruli).

Dr Baah said some factors that might increase the possibility or risk of chronic kidney disease included diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease, smoking, obesity, family history of kidney disease, abnormal kidney structure and old age.