COVID-19 Patients are Becoming Kidney Patients but Most Americans Unaware

New Harris Poll indicates only 1 in 5 Americans are aware kidneys can fail due to virus

May 14, 2020, New York, NY—COVID-19 doesn’t just attack a patient’s lungs, it damages the kidneys, but most Americans are unaware. In a new National Kidney Foundation-Harris Poll Survey on COVID-19 and Kidney Health findings show surprisingly low levels of awareness on both the risk of developing an acute kidney injury as a result of COVID-19, as well as the long-term effects of kidney damage.

Just under 1 in 5 (17%) Americans are aware of acute kidney injury as a result of COVID-19; considerably less than (58%) awareness of acute respiratory failure, (54%) pneumonia, and (52%) acute respiratory distress syndrome and more on par with (16%) septic shock and (15%) acute liver injury.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is happening in about 15% of all hospitalized coronavirus patients, many of whom now need dialysis. If a patient ends up in the intensive care unit (ICU) their odds worsen—reports indicate that 20% and higher of intensive-care patients have lost kidney function. Hospitals weren’t prepared for this—causing shortages in some hot spots of dialysis equipment, supplies and nurses properly trained to administer dialysis in the ICU. A whole group of people with no previous history of kidney disease now face an acute kidney injury, which brings with it an increased risk for developing chronic kidney disease.

The survey findings also show surprisingly low levels of awareness on both the risks of AKI as well as the long-term effects of kidney damage. Less than half (46%) of Americans are aware that COVID-19 will likely result in a higher number of Americans with chronic kidney disease and/or kidney failure. Once kidneys fail, dialysisor a transplant is needed to survive.

“A significant number of patients going into the hospital to be treated for COVID-19 are coming out as kidney patients,” said Kevin Longino, CEO, National Kidney Foundation and a kidney transplant patient. “We believe this may be a looming healthcare crisis that will put a greater strain on hospitals, dialysis clinics and patients, for whom chronic kidney disease will be a lasting remnant of the Coronavirus crisis––even after a vaccine is hopefully found.”

The survey also found that two-thirds (65%), are concerned over potential shortages of dialysis equipment from COVID-19. And the majority of Americans, (87%), support the federal government stepping in to address any shortages found in hot spots and provide funding for equipment, supplies, and staff needed to care for patients with complications caused by the virus, such as acute kidney injury. Support is also high (87%) for the federal government devoting more resources towards the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease and significantly increasing funding for kidney research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a result of kidney-related illness resulting from COVID-19.

The National Kidney Foundation-Harris Poll Survey on COVID-19 and Kidney Health was fielded May 1 and 2, 2020 amongst a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. Additional information about COVID-19 and how it affects kidney disease patients can be found at kidney.org/coronavirus.

Read the full story at National Kidney Foundation.