MALAYSIA: Kidney transplants to be fully available after COVID-19 hiatus

October 28, 2021
MALAYSIA: Kidney transplants to be fully available after COVID-19 hiatus

The Malaysian healthcare system is set to resume treatment options for patients suffering from end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) after the COVID-19 health emergency that clamoured for the country’s finite care resources such as hospital equipment and medical attention.

ESKD is the result of chronic kidney disease (CKD) i.e., the gradual loss of kidney function over time: damaged kidneys are unable to filter waste products and excess water from the blood, meaning that these waste products and excess water can build up to potentially dangerous levels. If left untreated the kidneys will eventually stop working and require treatments such as kidney transplantation (for those who are suitable to undergo the procedure), peritoneal dialysis and haemodialysis.

Kidney transplantation from living or deceased donors is considered the optimal therapy of failing kidneys, as it offers better survival and quality of life.

According to Dr. Rosnawati Yahya, Consultant nephrologist and Head of Transplantation Unit. Department of Nephrology, Hospital Kuala Lumpur, ESKD patients who are planning to get a kidney transplant and their donors will now have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; and have completed the 14-day period after their second vaccine dose before being allowed to undergo the procedure.

Dr. Rosnawati explained that the chances of an ESKD patient successfully developing antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the vaccine will be much higher while they are on dialysis, compared to when they are on an immunosuppressive regime.

[This immunosuppressive regime will commence just before a patient’s transplant surgery and will need to be continued for the rest of their lives.]

In addition, both patient and donor will also have to have negative results for the COVID-19 swab test before the kidney transplant surgery. The surgery can be performed a minimum of four weeks after they have completed the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or as advised by the patient’s doctor.

Even if an ESKD patient is not planning to receive a kidney transplant and is currently on dialysis, they should get vaccinated against COVID19 as soon as possible to avoid contracting the infection. This is especially important for patients on haemodialysis as they need to visit the haemodialysis centre three times a week, thus exposing themselves to other individuals who may have been infected with the virus.

CKD can strike at any age and is only detected trough screening and tests. If there is any trace of blood and/or protein in your urine from these tests, you should seek medical attention immediately for further investigation. The sooner treatment is initiated, the better your chances of significantly slowing down the progression of the disease, Dr. Rosnawati said.

High blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and obesity are also risk factors for the development and progression of CKD. Those with these conditions must monitor their blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight – eat a balanced diet, exercise, drink enough water, cut down on salt intake, and keep your protein intake to reasonable levels.

Avoiding the long-term consumption of painkillers and unverified health supplements is also advised to protect your kidneys. Common painkillers can damage your kidneys if taken for extended periods of time; while certain health supplements may contain ingredients that affect kidney function. Hence, it is best to avoid unnecessary intake of health supplements.

Read: New kidney test device to improve access to early detection for Singapore patients

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