A team of researchers led by Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, Director of the Kidney Research Institute at the University of Washington Medical Centre, has completed an FDA-authorized clinical trial for a wearable artificial kidney. This wearable kidney allows patients to move around unlike conventional dialysis.
“The goal of this is to provide patients of the future with new opportunities to lead a different kind of life with kidney dialysis.”
–Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb
Currently, patients with end-stage kidney disease participate in 3 dialysis sessions a week. Each treatment session can take anywhere from 3 to 4 hours on a stationary machine. This can put a strain on the quality of patient life.With traditional dialysis, patients are not able to walk around and be mobile.
Wearable artificial kidney clinical trial
With these new wearable artificial kidneys, patients are untethered, allowing them to be mobile during treatment sessions. There are further treatment benefits including longer sessions and the ability for more frequent days of dialysis.
The device is about 10 pounds and the dialysis equipment is attached to a standard tool belt. The device hangs around the patients’ torso and is designed for patients to use it laying down or walking around. It includes a filtration system to cleanse and recirculate water into the machine, and it runs on batteries.
Another major benefit of this mobile treatment that went over well with patients was the fact that patients did not have to follow diet restrictions while using the device. Diet restrictions are typically required of patients with kidney failure.
Seven patients were treated with the artificial kidney device for up to 24 hours. The FDA authorized this clinical trial to establish the safety and usefulness of the device. They wanted to determine whether the device could assume some of the kidney function, what the patients’ impression of the treatment was, and how the experience compares to conventional dialysis.
— UW Medicine (@UWMedicine) June 2, 2016
The device was able to effectively clear the blood of waste products, including urea, creatinine, and phosphorus. The wearable kidney was also able to remove excess salt and water. The patients displayed no adverse side effects and tolerated the treatment well.
Looking ahead to future of dialysis tech
The trial was stopped after 7 patients due to some technical problems with the device. Himmelfarb and his team will seek to redesign and refine the device to enhance its safety and reliability before further long-term studies.
The findings of this study show that the concept of wearable artificial kidneys could eventually replace conventional stationary dialysis. With this successful innovation in medical technology, hopefully, it opens the door of possibility for other wearable medical devices.