Nephrologists work daily to improve the quality of care for their patients. These kidney doctors know that when their patients understand their condition, they can better manage their kidney health.
“Let’s Talk About Kidneys'' takes a deep dive into the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patient journey. It’s a podcast that inspires meaningful conversations and helps people living with CKD gain a full understanding of their disease.
With this knowledge, CKD patients can improve their outcomes while living a longer, more fulfilling life.
Do you know anyone with CKD? Tune in to gain valuable information that can help you understand and support your loved ones who are living with kidney disease.
Weight Management Strategies with CKD
In this episode of the Let’s Talk About Kidneys podcast, Dallas Nephrology Associates Dietitian, Nadiya Lakhani, RDN, CSR, LD, FNKF, explains why weight management is important to the general population and how it affects the kidneys.
How does weight affect the kidneys? When the body carries more weight than it can handle, it increases the demand on the kidneys to hyper filtrate. In other words, it forces your kidneys to work harder, which will eventually cause them to be overworked. On the flip side, unintentional weight loss increases the risk of that person having increased days in hospital which in turn increases the risk of infection. In addition, weight loss often means losing muscle mass which is also very hard on the kidneys.
How do doctors determine healthy weight? Oftentimes formulas are used to determine a healthy weight, but Nadiya explains that what determines a healthy weight must take a wider view than just a formula like body mass index (BMI). Healthy weight should be determined by what is healthy for that specific person and should also take into consideration weight history, musculature, weight distribution, as well as gender, age and body frame.
Treatment Interventions for Overweight and Underweight Treatment for weight loss is pretty straightforward and includes eating well and moving your body.. Sometimes it is also necessary to also consider pharmaceutical interventions or surgical intervention. Nadiya also discusses in detail the importance of understanding an individual’s routines and mindset to help identify small things that will help with weight loss and how to understand and identify hunger cues.
Treatment for being underweight starts first with determining what is causing the weight loss. If they are losing weight unintentionally or because of illness, there is more cause for concern. Weight loss can be caused by gastrointestinal issues (GI), getting full too easily, little to no appetite, etc. In general, treatment could include small changes to add additional calories like drizzling good oils on food, having an extra serving, eating more frequent but smaller meals throughout the day, or adding nutritional supplements.
Rely On the Experts To wrap up this episode. Dietitian Nadiya Lakhani emphasizes the need to allow the experts to help you. Dietitians have the experience and education to guide each patient and provide an individualized plan for weight management that takes into account lifestyle, allergies, culture, financial situation, and so much more.
Kidney Transplant - Getting Started
In this episode of the Let’s Talk About Kidneys podcast, Dr. Muhammad Qureshi talks about the benefits of a kidney transplant, why it’s a good choice after kidney failure, and what the process looks like before, during and after.
Why should a CKD patient consider a kidney transplant? Dr. Qureshi talks about the fact that there are both mortality and morbidity benefits of a kidney transplant. In other words, not only do you live longer, but you live better.
Who qualifies for a kidney transplant? Anyone who has a kidney function less than 20% or someone who has already started dialysis on a chronic basis can potentially qualify for a kidney transplant. At that point they will visit a transplant center for a thorough evaluation to be sure they meet the minimum criteria for a transplant. That includes being sure they have a healthy heart and can handle the immunosuppressive medications, as well as age-appropriate screening for cancer, pre-existing infections, etc.
Who is involved in the pre-transplant process? A nephrologist, transplant surgeon, dietitian, and social worker will all be involved in the pre-transplant process. They each have a role in evaluating the patient and making sure they have adequate coverage for their medications and care plan.
What happens when a patient is matched with an organ? Once an organ is available, the first person the patient typically sees is a transplant nephrologist. They will again perform screenings to ensure nothing has changed - no active infections or wounds, blood testing to ensure organ compatibility, COVID screening, etc.
What happens after the transplant is complete? Dr. Qureshi walks through the importance of immunosuppressive medications. The patient will take some immunosuppressive medications immediately following transplant and some will be lifelong, which are called maintenance immunosuppressive medications.
Once the patient is discharged from the hospital, the nephrology team still follows them very closely. They will see the patient three times a week for the first couple of weeks, twice a week for two weeks, and then once a week for about another month. In that time medications will be monitored and adjusted, the wound will be monitored for infection or complications, and more.
The kidney transplant process is a lifelong journey. The number of appointments and medications will decrease over time, but the patient will have ongoing monitoring and adjustments for the rest of their life.
What types of kidney transplants are available? Dr. Qureshi talks about both living donor and deceased donor transplants. Living transplant is the better option when it is available since it is a more controlled setting. Both the recipient and the donor are present for the surgery so it happens more quickly and the organ is more immediately transplanted. If necessary, the deceased donor kidney will be connected to a machine that provides it with oxygen and nutrients or it will be stored on ice for a period of time before the patient is ready.
How does a patient find a living donor? A living donor can be a friend or family member and donate their kidney directly to a patient. But if they aren’t a good match, there are also paired exchange programs available. In paired exchange, an incompatible donor/recipient pair is matched with another incompatible donor/recipient pair for a "swap". Each donor gives a kidney to the other person's intended recipient.
Dr. Qureshi wraps up the podcast by encouraging patients to understand that kidney transplant is an option worth considering if they have less than 20% kidney function. He also encourages people to help educate others on the benefits of kidney donation so we can help more patients with kidney disease.
Considering Dialysis at Home
In this episode of the Let’s Talk About Kidneys podcast, Dr. Lauren McDonald talks about the types of dialysis that can be done successfully in your own home including home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. She puts extra emphasis on the fact that choosing the right dialysis modality is a very personal choice and should be made based on a patient’s lifestyle and what is most important to them.
Overview of Home Hemodialysis Home hemodialysis is done in the home. Currently, the dialysis machine is about the size of a nightstand and everything is self contained. It does require 3.5 to 4 hours of time each day, but you can read, watch TV, interact with family and friends, etc.
Disadvantages of Dialysis at Home Privacy is one potential drawback of home dialysis. Family or friends may see the equipment or even the treatment itself if they stop by, neighbors might see delivery vans bringing supplies, etc. So for patients who prefer to keep their health and medical treatments private, home dialysis may not be the best choice.
Patients must also be comfortable handling the equipment and other minor medical procedures like sticking themselves with needles.
Overview of Peritoneal Dialysis One of the primary benefits of peritoneal dialysis is how portable it is. During treatment you can leave the house, go to work, go to school, run errands, etc. This also makes it very easy to travel since you just need to take masks, gloves and your exchanges.
How to be Successful with Home Dialysis Dr. McDonald believes that confidence and strength are key to doing dialysis at home. It can be overwhelming in the beginning, but once you go through training and get the system down, you will get comfortable with it.
The Dallas Nephrology Associates dialysis care team spends focused time ensuring each patient is trained on how to perform their dialysis treatment at home. For peritoneal dialysis, there is at least a 5 to 7 day training period one-on-one with a nurse and with home hemodialysis training will be six weeks. Plus, someone is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help with questions or issues that may arise.
The Role of Loved Ones There must be a family member or friend available to provide support and assistance when performing dialysis at home. They will also go through training to be sure they are prepared, plus Dallas Nephrology Associates care team helps to address caretaker burnout by orchestrating a break and bringing the patient to an in-center facility for a week occasionally.
Home Dialysis Timeline From the time they make the decision, it generally takes about six weeks for a patient to be up and running with dialysis at home. This includes arranging for their access, running labs, a week or two of in-center dialysis to make sure everything goes well, training, and a home visit. Even after dialysis begins at home, the patient will still see their doctor at least once each month for labs and an examination.
Your healthcare team at Dallas Nephrology Associates will be there to support you throughout the home dialysis process.
Types of Dialysis: What type of dialysis is best for me? Overview of the three types of dialysis.
In this episode of the Let’s Talk About Kidneys podcast, Dr. Richey talks about the different types of dialysis and provides an overview to help patients and caregivers to understand what is involved and how to decide which modality is right for each patient.
When is dialysis necessary? Dialysis is recommended when a patient’s kidneys can no longer safely support them. This is determined based on several factors:
Dr. Richey also mentions that doctors consider how the patient feels in addition to the items above. Can they do things they could normally do in the past?
What are the types of dialysis? There are three main options for dialysis:
Peritoneal dialysis (performed at home)
How does dialysis work? With hemodialysis a patient’s blood is run through a machine. The machine cleans the blood, removes extra fluid, and then the cleaned blood is returned back to the patient. Both in-center hemodialysis and home hemodialysis follow the same basic process.
Peritoneal dialysis is very different. With peritoneal dialysis, the patient’s own body is used to do the filtering. A catheter goes into the patient’s abdomen and through the peritoneum. A special fluid goes into the catheter and through the peritoneum there is an exchange of toxins and fluid removal. Then you empty that fluid out from the abdomen.
What are the different types of access points for dialysis? Access to the patient’s blood is required for dialysis. The most common access for both in-center and home hemodialysis is an arteriovenous (AV) fistula or arteriovenous (AV) graft. Through a surgical procedure, an artery and vein are sealed together to allow for blood flow directly through the artery and into the vein. This allows for a higher rate of blood flow.
For peritoneal dialysis, a special catheter is inserted into the abdomen. It sits low in the pelvis area and a small length of tubing comes from under the skin for access.
What would qualify a patient to do home hemodialysis? Most patients can do home hemodialysis. However, there are a few things that make in-center dialysis a better option including:
If the patient is unable to participate in the training which can take 4-6 weeks for hemodialysis.
If the patient doesn’t have good vision.
If they don’t have good family support.
If they don’t have the appropriate space in their home for the supplies and equipment.
What is the typical hemodialysis schedule? In-center treatment will take place three days a week and, on average, patients will be at the center for four hours per treatment.
Peritoneal dialysis is a seven day a week treatment. Some patients are able to do this while they sleep, but others will do it during the day.
What medications are used in combination with dialysis? The most common medication used with dialysis is anti-hypertensive medications to lower blood pressure. We also use phosphorus binders to avoid long term complications with their bones and blood vessels. Other considerations can include vitamin D or medications for anemia or low blood count.
A Day in the Life of a Nephrologist
No day is ever the same for a nephrologist. Dallas Nephrology Associates’ Dr. Paul Skluzacek may see his kidney patients in the office, have hospital rounds, dialysis rounds and much more. In this episode of Let’s Talk About Kidneys, learn about Dr. Skluzacek’s busy days providing patient care and how his schedule changes from one day to another.
What is a Nephrologist? Nephrologists are kidney doctors. They have special training that includes completion of medical school followed by a residency in Internal Medicine and then additional specialty training in Nephrology.
They treat systemic conditions affecting kidneys, such as diabetes, an autoimmune disease, as well as hypertension (high blood pressure) and electrolyte disturbances.
Reasons to see a nephrologist may include:
Protein or blood in the urine
Uncontrolled high blood pressure
Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
Vascular access management
What does a day in the life of a Nephrologist look like? For a nephrologist, each day is different. Hours may be spent seeing kidney patients in an office-based setting at the clinic, running tests as well as interpreting them. They also prescribe medicine and treatments, conduct hospital rounds and visit their patients at dialysis centers.
Nephrologists also spend time making notes on their patients’ physical conditions and advise them how to stay healthy.
“The clinic patients are the outpatients that we see in the office,” says Dr. Skluzacek. “The focus there is to preserve their kidney function, protect their kidneys and keep them out of the hospital.”
Patients who are admitted to the hospital are there because their kidney illness is more serious.
“They can be as sick as being on the ventilator in the ICU to patients that are there just for severe hypertension or high blood pressure control,” Dr. Skluzacek says.
With a schedule that includes practicing at four locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Dr. Skluzacek says he spends a lot of time on the road. He also sees his dialysis patients once a week.
“The vast majority of things we can handle over the phone now because we have access to the electronic health records through the Internet,” he says, “but probably about half of the time, I have to go in and see a patient.”
The Business of Taking Care of People Dr. Skluzacek believes that compassion is an important part of being a physician, especially if you are a nephrologist.
“Patients with kidney disease have complex illnesses, and it's hard to navigate the healthcare system,” says Dr. Skluzacek,” so we as providers need to be compassionate, not only with the patients, but with their families and their other situations.”
Sodium and Your CKD Diet
When most people think of sodium, they think of salt. In this episode of Let’s Talk About Kidneys, Dallas Nephrology Associates’ Senior Clinical Dietitian Carolyn Cochran breaks down what sodium is, how to identify it in common foods and ways to make lifestyle adjustments for healthier kidneys.
What is sodium? Sodium is one of three important electrolytes found in the body. Electrolytes control the fluids going in and out of your body’s tissues and cells.
“Sodium is essential for life,” Carolyn says. “It's in animals, vegetables, minerals and is important for muscle function, nerve function, and for fluid balance.”
Many types of salt are used to season food. A survey conducted by the American Heart Association found that more than 60 percent of respondents thought that sea salt was healthier than table salt. But whether you’re using kosher salt, table salt or Himalayan black salt, Carolyn says all salts are equal.
“The bottom line is that they all contain sodium and the amount of sodium is comparable,” says Carolyn.
Sodium and your kidneys Sodium is an essential nutrient in your body. One of the jobs of the kidneys is to keep sodium in balance, Carolyn says. If sodium is out of balance, your body’s fluid balance is also affected. This can affect muscle and nerve function.
How does sodium affect blood pressure? Many people have a sensitivity to salt, which can be exhibited in high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. High blood pressure is the number two cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD), second only to diabetes.
What is a low-sodium diet? In the U.S., 2,300 milligrams is considered a healthy target. Carolyn says that the average U.S. citizen will consume 3,500 to more than 5,000 milligrams of sodium per day, especially when dining out. A low-sodium diet is about 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams.
Only a small percentage of the population who experience excessive sweat loss due to exercise–such as athletes–need more sodium. But Carolyn says most people could benefit from a low-sodium diet.
Tracking your sodium intake For people who want to track their sodium intake, Carolyn recommends starting with a base of about 500 milligrams to leave room for the sodium that naturally occurs in foods. Hidden sodium A teaspoon of salt has 2,000 milligrams of sodium, but sodium isn’t just found in a salt shaker. Many foods have “hidden” sodium.
“Sodium grows out of the ground. Sodium is in animals. It is just everywhere,” Carolyn says. “So you've got to give credit to those first 500, maybe even 600 milligrams of sodium, and then you can start counting (your sodium intake).”
Reading labels Getting into the habit of reading labels is important for anyone who needs to track their sodium intake. At the top of the label, the serving size can be found. The size of the portions are determined by the manufacturer. The sodium content is found near the middle of the label and is measured in milligrams.
To the right of the sodium is a percentage of the recommended amount of sodium in a diet, but Carolyn says to remember that this number might not be the percentage that you are aiming for if you’re on a low-sodium diet.
Medical Nutrition Therapy If you need help managing your sodium intake, Carolyn suggests talking to your doctor about Medical Nutrition Therapy. Dallas Nephrology Associates has registered dietitian nutritionists who are experienced in helping patients who have renal disease.
“We realize that every person is complex and that many things need to be taken into account,” Carolyn says.