An alarming number of Barbadians with kidney ailments are undiagnosed, according to a local medical practitioner.
Dr Lisa Belle, who specializes in the branch of medicine that deals with kidney diseases, said while 300 Barbadians undergo kidney dialysis and over 1,000 experience renal failure, there was an undisclosed number who do not even realize they suffered from chronic kidney diseases.
“Chronic kidney disease is pretty much asymptomatic until it is in effect, so most patients even with the diabetes, even with the hypertension, have no symptoms and because of that they are unaware of the presence of the disease. So without that screening they can go undetected until the very end,” she told a press conference called to announce the successful collaboration on two kidney transplants between Transplant Links Community (TLC) of the United Kingdom and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
The nephrologist said there was an increase in screening within the last eight to nine years. However, she believed there was still a large portion of the population who went undiagnosed.
Noting the trending increase in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, Dr Belle stated that an increase in kidney disease was likely as well.
She stressed the need for vigilance in order to diagnose patients with kidney ailments much earlier.
“We do still see people who are presenting with what we call end stage renal failure and requiring dialysis as soon as they are diagnosed. So we do have to be a lot more effective in reaching this population earlier and intervening earlier,” Dr Belle said.
“It would be optimal to see the patients at the earliest stage of renal disease where you have the best chance of reducing progression.”
Consultative Surgeon for the collaboration between TLC and the QEH Dr Margaret O’Shea spoke of the importance of legislation permitting organ donations in Barbados.
“Right now it’s only if your heart stops beating that you are dead . . . but if you wait for your heart to stop beating the kidneys would not be good anymore. So if we can get them if they are brain-dead but their heart is still beating then there are two good kidneys for two people,” Dr O’Shea said.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Dr Malcolm Samuel, a renal transplant surgeon of the TLC nine-member team, spearheaded legislation for brain-dead donors in the twin island republic ten years ago.
Dr Samuel recommended that doctors communicate with their patients and explain the protocol.
“When it comes to deceased donors, people might question certain decisions that are made in declaring somebody brain-dead
. . . so brain-dead is a concept that people have to accept and understand,” Dr Samuel said.
“We have to make sure that they don’t think that the doctors are putting something over their eyes and just want to take out the organ,” he advised.