CATSKILL, NEW YORK. Patients with kidney failure require long-term hemodialysis in order to remove waste products from the blood. It is estimated that about 350,000 patients in the USA alone require regular dialysis treatments. Although modern dialysis methods are effective in cleaning up the blood they do produce side effects. Uremic pruritus or renal itch (localized or generalized itch in patients with chronic kidney disease) affects up to 80% of patients on dialysis. A recent clinical trial found that patients given 6 grams/day of fish oil had significantly less severe itching than did patients given a similar daily dose of olive oil or safflower oil.
ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA. IgA nephropathy is a common kidney disease that often follows a viral infection of the gastrointestinal or upper respiratory tract. There is no known cure for the disease and treatment with steroids, antibiotics, anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, and phenytoin has been ineffective. About 20 to 40% of all IgA nephropathy patients develop renal failure 5 to 25 years after diagnosis.
ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA. Hemodialysis in patients with kidney failure requires that the blood to be cleaned is drawn from the body, pumped through the dialysis machine, and then returned to the body. Because relatively large amounts of blood are handled, it is necessary to use large catheters to draw and return the blood. In order to avoid the discomfort, pain and inconvenience of repeated puncture of the veins most patients on long-term maintenance dialysis now have a permanent access system (graft) made from Gore-Tex(polytetrafluoroethylene) implanted in the arm. While this is convenient, the implant is also a potent breeding ground for blood clots and tends to become obstructed over time. It is estimated that the annual cost of maintaining dialysis access exceeds 1 billion dollars and that more than 50% of all access grafts experience thrombosis within one year after placement.