Dialysis Patients May Be Unprepared for Natural Disasters

Dialysis Patients May Be Unprepared for Natural Disasters

TUESDAY, July 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Many kidney dialysis patients may be unprepared for natural disasters, a new study finds.

These patients with kidney disease depend on machines at treatment centers for dialysis, which filters wastes from their blood. Dialysis patients are especially vulnerable during emergencies or disasters because they rely on technology and infrastructure such as electricity, water and transportation to stay alive, the researchers noted.

The study authors assessed the preparedness of more than 350 adult patients receiving outpatient dialysis at five facilities in New York City that lost power for several days when Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012.

About 26 percent of the patients missed dialysis sessions and about 66 percent received dialysis at non-regular dialysis units. Slightly more than three-quarters of them carried insurance information with them. But only 44 percent had detailed medication lists, the study found.

After the storm, some dialysis centers gave patients a dialysis emergency packet. This packet included details about an individual’s medications, dialysis schedule and other health problems, along with location and contact information for other dialysis centers.

Patients who received the packets were more likely to later have copies of their medical records at home than those who didn’t receive the packets.

The study appears July 28 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

“Disasters affect all of the population, but patients with specific needs such as dialysis are especially vulnerable,” said study author Dr. Naoka Murakami in a journal news release. She was a resident at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City at the time of the study.

“There is a need to strengthen both patients’ and dialysis facilities’ awareness and preparedness to improve outcomes in natural disasters,” she said.

The study also identified a number of factors — such as access to alternate dialysis in an integrated system, access to transportation and having a stable social situation — that could help patients avoid missing dialysis treatments, according to an accompanying editorial written by nurse practitioner Michael Davis and Dr. Jeffrey Kopp, both with the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more about dialysis.