Go for kidney transplant, not dialysis, experts advise patients

Human kidney cross section [File]

Medics have advised kidney patients to go for transplant instead of dialysis, which is temporary, expensive and may result in more complications.

There are about four million Kenyans suffering from chronic kidney disease, according to the Ministry of Health. Of those, about 10, 000 are progressing towards kidney failure and require dialysis.

In the new health scheme by the National Hospital Insurance Fund, each session of dialysis costs Sh6,500, from Sh9,500. Kidney patients are required to undertake dialysis three times a week.

But only 10 per cent can access dialysis which serves as an alternative to functions of the kidneys, which include filtering waste products out of the blood and producing urine.  

Dr Sanand Bag, a senior urologist and transplant surgeon attached to Mediheal Hospital in Eldoret, explained that patients on dialysis have heart issues, problems with oxygen, blood pressure and haemoglobin levels.

"What is more, kidney failure risks failure of other organs like kidneys because of fluid overflow and many complex problems that dialysis cannot take care of,” said the doctor.

Dr Bag, who has more than 2,000 transplants under his belt, adds that a patient on dialysis also spends more money compared to those who have undergone transplant.”

The cost of kidney transplant ranges from Sh240,000 to Sh360,000, exclusive of doctor’s fee and other charges, according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners Council.

After successful transplant, patients are still required to undergo regular medical checkups and take immunosuppressant drugs that prevent rejection of the transplanted kidney.

Cost for managing patients on immunosuppressants ranges between Sh20,000 and Sh50,000 but Dr Bag notes that “it is worrying that a number of patients who have undergone successful transplant develop organ failure due to failure to use immunosuppressants.”

Dr Bag spoke yesterday at Mediheal during celebrations of 200 successful kidney transplants in two and half years. Patients ranged from eight to 74 years. 

Catherine Lichuma is among the patients on immunosuppressants after she successfully underwent a kidney transplant in February 2021. Lichuma spends at least Sh30,000 on drugs, money she pays out of pocket.

Another patient Fr Ambrose Bett spends Sh50,000 every month on immunosuppressants.