Kidney Patients’ Heart Health is Getting Better

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NEW YORK— Kidney disease patients’ heart health showed signs of major improvement between 1997 and 2007, according to U.S. Renal Data Systems 2009 Annual Data Report.

Over that decade, the incidence of congestive heart failure, in which the heart loses the ability to pump the blood efficiently, fell by 17 percent in kidney patients, according to a news release from the National Kidney Foundation. Kidney patients’ likelihood of cardiac arrest—when the heart stops beating—fell 29 percent, while heart attack risk fell 15 percent.

From 1997 to 2007, the likelihood of a kidney patient having certain types of cardiovascular treatment increased, according to the USRDS report. The rate of angioplasty, a procedure to open up narrowed arteries in the heart, rose from 12.1 procedures per 1,000 patient years to 14.5 per 1,000 during that time period.

Kidney patients were also increasingly likely to receive pacemakers, which are implanted in the chest to restore normal heart rhythm.  But the chances of their having open-heart surgery to restore blood flow to the heart actually dropped.

Increased awareness among doctors that cardiovascular complications can be treated—and even prevented—in kidney patients has helped make this progress possible, said Bryan Becker, MD, National Kidney Foundation president.

“It’s a big step forward that death from cardiovascular disease is now recognized not only as a major problem but also that we can do something about it,” said Becker. “And yet more attention is still necessary since the death rate from cardiovascular disease for kidney patients still far exceeds the death rate from cardiovascular disease for people who are the same age in the general population.”

In 2005, the National Kidney Foundation published comprehensive guidelines on evaluating and treating cardiovascular disease in end-stage renal disease patients treated with dialysis or transplant. These guidelines helped boost awareness of how to prevent and treat heart disease in these patients, according to Becker.

“The guideline also provided a concise body of recommendations that practitioners in any environment, be it a regional rural dialysis facility or a large urban academic health center, could follow,” he added.

But more work needs to be done, especially in tackling heart disease risk factors in the early stages of chronic kidney disease, said Becker. “We have to be vigilant.  It is exciting that we can see a downward trend in the U.S. related to cardiovascular complications and mortality for kidney patients but we have more work to do.”

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