Dialysis Patients are 4 Times More Likely to Die from COVID-19 Infection


For people living with comorbidities, the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult, because their immune system is already in a compromised state. Health experts say that people with Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD) and those on dialysis, are at higher risk for more severe illness from COVID-19.

The Patients undergoing long-term dialysis are more than five times likelier to be infected with COVID-19 and nearly four times more likely to die than the general population.

The dialysis patients are likely to be older, have underlying conditions and different degrees of immunosuppression, and live in long-term care facilities, all of which increase their risk of COVID-19 infection and related complications. Those who receive dialysis in hospital outpatient centers usually undergo three treatments each week, increasing their exposure to the virus, compared with those who do home dialysis and are able to isolate.

During the pandemic, dialysis clinics have received more personal protective equipment, increasingly required universal face coverings, and provided easier access to COVID-19 testing before patients entered the clinic. However, it is common for dialysis staff to work in more than one clinic throughout that time.

Therefore, as the COVID-19 pandemic proceeds, focused efforts should be made to protect this population from infection including SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and following strict COVID-19 SOPs at the clinics.

In addition to standard COVID-19 prevention precautions and vaccination, it is necessary to educate dialysis patients about their risk of infection and death, giving paid sick leave to patients required to work in high-risk occupations, lowering the symptom threshold for testing this group, increasing the distance between clinic dialysis treatment stations, taking universal droplet precautions, and regularly testing people at high risk of infection, such as those living in nursing homes.

Furthermore, dialysis patients well enough to perform dialysis at home should be encouraged to do so. This could actually prove to be a positive outcome, in a way, since home dialysis offers patients a higher quality of life and equivalent outcomes, not to mention that it's more cost-effective for the system, and in the context of COVID, home dialysis is safer, too.

Dialysis services are non-elective and cannot be delayed, dialysis clinics serve patients whether they have COVID-19 or not. This creates a high-risk environment for other dialysis patients and healthcare personnel and underscores the importance of vaccination to protect everyone in these clinics.

Author: Noshaba M. | Date: May 17, 2021

Sources: Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, Canadian Medical Association Journal