Chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition in which the kidneys lose the ability to remove waste and excess water from the bloodstream, is more prevalent than you might think. Estimates range from 20 million to 23 million Americans suffer from the disease.
CKD may be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or other disorders. Early detection and treatment can often keep CKD from progressing to complete kidney failure, also known as renal failure. After complete failure, a patient needs either dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. When his kidneys failed, Walter Hunt found plenty of medical information about kidney disease and failure but no systematic discussion from a patient’s perspective. Hunt fills that gap with “Kidney Disease: A Guide for Living” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). A medical researcher for 30 years, Hunt begins by describing the basics of kidney function and failure and strategies for preventing or retarding the progress of CKD. He provides details on the various types of dialysis. Hunt gives not only the medical pros and cons of each dialysis option, but also the nitty-gritty experience of someone who endured dialysis for more than seven years. For example, he warns that peritoneal dialysis generates a lot of waste material, including many empty boxes that do not collapse. Large numbers of noncollapsible boxes can create a real challenge for trash removal. Some municipalities require that residents transport noncollapsible boxes to the disposal site themselves. Hunt asks, is your car big enough to transport a lot of trash? I cannot imagine anyone without personal experience realizing that disposal of empty boxes could be a factor in their choice of dialysis. Ultimately Hunt received a new kidney through a transplant. He describes the shortage of donor kidneys and the frustration of being on the waiting list, in addition to the great improvement in quality of life once you have a new kidney. The book ends by highlighting current research on promising new treatments. “100 Questions and Answers About Kidney Dialysis” (Jones and Bartlett, 2010) and “100 Questions and Answers About Liver, Heart and Kidney Transplantation” (Jones and Bartlett, 2011) give authoritative and practical answers about these treatments. The books follow the standard “100 Questions” series format. In “100 Questions and Answers About Kidney Dialysis,” Lawrence E. Stam, M.D., provides medical information interspersed with tips and advice from real patients. “100 Questions and Answers About Liver, Heart, and Kidney Transplantation,” written by three transplant specialists from the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., offers explanations of the basics of transplant procedure, organ allocation, live donor transplantation and possible complications. Both volumes provide valuable information in an accessible format. For a newsletter-length overview of kidney disease and treatments, read “Caring for Your Kidneys: What You Need to Know to Keep Them Healthy” in the August issue of Consumer Reports on Health. Included is a section on where to go and what to look for in finding a high-quality dialysis center. Jean Johnson is a librarian at Stanford Health Library. For more information, call 725-8400 or visit healthlibrary.stanford.edu.