In the future kidney patients could enjoy the kind of freedom they only dream of right now. Thanks to an experimental program that has been hosted at UW Medical, a wearable artificial kidney is getting closer to being offered to the public. Instead of having to be hooked up to dialysis machines on a regular basis, essentially tethering a person to the same spot for hours, patients with end-stage kidney failure would be able to go about their regular activities while the artificial kidney does its job.
While the technology is still very much in development, in its present state the wearable artificial kidney is a belt that weighs only ten pounds. That's a stark difference when compared to traditional hemodialysis machines that are about the size of a refrigerator.
The artificial wearable kidney looks kind of like the utility belt Batman wears, only maybe a little bit bulkier. It represents a huge technological leap forward, accomplishing quite a bit while not taking up much space. A catheter tethers the device to the patient, allowing for dialysis on the go. Among the items attached to the belt is a battery, which is key for the mobile nature of the device. Researchers are working on making the whole thing smaller and lighter, which would make it even more practical.
Proof-of-concept tests were first run in Europe. Researchers there observed that the big difference is the device's pump. The innovative design means waste in a patient's blood is easily cleared, despite the smaller size.
So far patients have only worn the artificial kidney for short periods of time. Researchers are working to understand how prolonged use will affect people.
The possibilities for the artificial wearable kidney are huge. A patient can strap on the device and simply move around while exercising some caution. Instead of having to sit in the same spot for hours, people could walk around, travel, go shopping or do pretty much whatever else they desire. Such an innovation means a huge increase in quality of life for kidney patients.
You might be eager to rush out and buy a wearable artificial kidney right now, but you'll have to be patient. As of the writing of this post, the device is still very much in the prototype phase. So far, health professionals are just amazed that it actually works, but one day the artificial kidney will become something the public can purchase.
Kidney patients should be delighted to hear that the device could also allow them to relax their diet a little. While doctors certainly will provide details on what is and isn't acceptable, it could allow people to enjoy some favorite foods that right now are strictly off-limits.
The wait for the wearable artificial kidney hopefully won't be too long. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the device an Expedited Access Pathway status, which expedites feedback and a final approval from the regulatory organization. For now, much of the process is in the hands of some very capable professionals who stand to transform countless lives.
Our informational articles are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, we recommend you work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.