Many die from kidney failure each day and in the U.K. alone, about 5,000 people develop renal failure annually (RDS Online, 2000). Kidney failure can be averted by performing either a kidney transplant or by hooking up the patient in a dialysis machine. Using a dialysis machine involves connecting the patient's circulatory system to a huge dialysis machine or artificial kidney which takes the role of a pair of kidneys. About 19,000 of people suffering from kidney failure are connected to dialysis machines (BBC, 2004). A kidney transplant on the other hand, involves surgically removing a patient's failed kidneys and replacing them with a healthy pair from a kidney donor. Such operations are rare and risky, and sometimes a kidney patient must wait for a year or more to receive a healthy kidney. More often than not, a patient dies before he or she receives the kidney. Both methods however are seen as the only viable solutions in the treatment of kidney failure available today. A comparison of both methods of kidney failure treatment and their procedures and the effectivity of each is discussed herein.
A kidney dialysis machine replaces the kidney in patients with kidney failure. It works by connecting the patient in the machine through a series of tubes connected to his/her circulatory system. The blood flowing out of the patient's body will then go through a series of a series of special membranes that filter off the toxins from the blood. The procedure was first performed by John Abdell in 1914. He first hooked up small mammals into his dialysis machine which had treated parchment for filter membranes. Blood clotting was a problem, and Abdell solved this by treating the blood with hirudin, an anti-coagulant from leeches. After 2 to 3 hours the experimental animals recovered and lived on normally. This first set-up was effective for animals but was deemed unsuitable for humans because it was still crude and allergic reactions from hirudin was exhibited in some patients (RDS Online, 2000). Dialysis machines made their big leap in 1959 when the improved version of Abdell's machine, the Artificial Kidney Unit (AKU) was used to dialysed patients in Ward 21 of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 2001). Recently, there has been a report that a new type of dialysis machine that perfectly mimics the kidneys actions is under development and promises a lot for kidney patients who are undergoing dialysis (BBC, 2004).
There is nothing like having a natural pair of kidneys, as these organs are very efficient in filtering the body's wastes and toxins. The kidneys' microstructure shows that it is made up of millions of nephrons that filter blood in a process called ultrafiltration. The clean water and blood is the reabsorbed and returned to the circulatory system. The kidneys are also capable of osmoregulation, a fluid regulatory mechanism that proceeds through osmosis. Although dialysis machines are effective in filtering blood, they are not as efficient as two kidneys. Dialysis machines are often considered as a transition treatment prior to a full kidney transplant, it helps the patient cope up with kidney failure until a