Doctor invents a device that could make life easier for dialysis patients


A Houston heart surgeon-gadgeteer has invented a device that makes the safest kind of dialysis accessible without surgery, a potentially huge advance in the treatment of chronic kidney disease. The minimally invasive approach, now being studied on patients in Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, involves the temporary insertion of two slender catheters that connect a vein and artery in the arm, creating a passageway whose robust blood flow facilitates the patient's connection to a dialysis machine. The device, known as the EverlinQ System, also should be less costly to the health-care system and significantly expand the pool of specialists who can make patients ready for regular dialysis treatments. Dialysis patients, often waiting for a kidney transplant, typically undergo such life-saving treatment for four hours at a time, three to four days a week. Because no blood vessel close to the skin is big enough to accommodate the machine's rapid extraction and re-delivery of blood, surgeons fashion a better passageway, known as an arteriovenous fistula. An ingenious idea, it features one catheter inserted through a vein and the other through an adjacent artery, magnets that pull them into perfect alignment and the activation of a spring-loaded electrode that cuts a small hole in the vessels. The dramatic increase in blood flow resulting from the short circuit results in progressive enlargement of the vein, which makes it easy for a dialysis clinic nurse to stick a needle. [...] most dialysis patients aren't so lucky, given there were less than 17,000 such transplants in the U.S. in 2013 and the nation's aging population is projected to dramatically increase the number of people with chronic kidney disease in coming years. [...] there aren't many surgeons who dedicate their practice to dialysis access creation.

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