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There should be a rethink in how doctors talk to some patients with reduced kidney health, replacing the term ‘chronic kidney disease’ (CKD) with different bands of kidney age, according to a group of experts writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Kidney 1
Qualitative studies show that communicating a diagnosis of ‘CKD’ to patients can be uncomfortable and unsatisfactory for all concerned, and primary care physicians often face an up-hill battle to retrieve the situation with reassurance."
- Richard Stevens, lead author

School funded research at the Universities of Oxford, Bristol and Johannesburg, has found that for some people a reduced level of kidney function is not necessarily a disease, but a normal and asymptomatic sign of ageing, given the clear link between decreasing kidney health and increasing age.

Since 2002, the different stages of CKD have been used by doctors to label reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR) – the rate at which blood passes through tiny capillaries in the kidney each minute, but this leads to confusion and worry for some patients.

“Qualitative studies show that communicating a diagnosis of ‘CKD’ to patients can be uncomfortable and unsatisfactory for all concerned, and primary care physicians often face an up-hill battle to retrieve the situation with reassurance,” said lead author Richard Stevens, an Associate Professor at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.

“Some doctors prefer not to mention the condition to patients so as to avoid any unnecessary worry, given that a reduced but stable kidney function in elderly patients requires regular monitoring rather than immediate intervention.”

Publication: 

Read the full press release from the University of Oxford.

View the Healthtalk.org website:  www.healthtalk.org/kidney-health

Kidney age, not kidney disease
Richard J Stevens, Julie Evans, Jason Oke, Benjamin Smart, Richard Hobbs, Elizabeth Holloway, Jeremy Horwood, Marion Judd, Louise Locock, Julie McLellan, Rafael Perera.
CMAJ 2018. Doi: 10.1503/cmaj.170674