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Expenses Overshadow Optimism for Kidney Failure Patients

Outcomes improve, but related costs increased 57% from 1999 to 2004, analysis shows

THURSDAY, Aug. 23, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- While there has been progress in the prevention and treatment of kidney failure in the United States, soaring costs remain a major issue, a new analysis shows.

In 2004, the most recent year for which complete data were available, 104,364 Americans (about 0.03 percent of the population) started dialysis or received a kidney transplant that year, a nearly 1 percent decline from 2003.

That suggests that improvements in preventive care may be helping to reduce diabetes-related kidney disease, but analysis of several years of new data will be needed to confirm this trend, the researchers said. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

The data from United States Renal Data System (USRDS) also show improvements in several indicators of the quality of dialysis care and a steady increase since the late 1980s in the likelihood of survival for end-stage renal disease patients, even though dialysis patients tend to be older and sicker than they were 20 years ago.

"While most of these findings are grounds for cautious optimism, the same cannot be said for issues of cost," wrote authors Drs. Robert Foley and Allan J. Collins, of the USRDS and the University of Minnesota.

They found that such costs increased 57 percent between 1999 and 2004. The most recent estimates showed that Medicare costs for end-stage renal disease were $20.1 billion, while non-Medicare costs were $12.4 billon. Such care now accounts for 6.7 percent of total Medicare expenditures.

The findings were published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about kidney failure.

SOURCE: American Society of Nephrology, news release, August 2007
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