Health and Fitness

More than 25% of dialysis patients on Medicare who contracted Covid died from the virus


Elderly Americans who required dialysis for kidney disease treatment are at a significantly increased risk of dying from COVID-19, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, found that more than a quarter of Medicare patients on dialysis who contracted the virus died from it.

Those who had a recent long-term stay in a nursing home were especially at risk, with researchers finding they were nearly five times as likely to die from Covid. 

The findings provide more evidence of the risk of death that people with kidney disease, and particularly older people have faced during the pandemic.

There was a surge in deaths of Medicare patients on dialysis in 2020 (yellow line) after figures stayed consistent from 2013 to 2019 (blue lines). Researchers from the University of Michigan found that dialysis patients who stayed in nursing homes were especially at risk

 Around 71 percent of Americans suffering from end stage kidney disease are on dialysis.

The highly intensive treatment assists a person’s kidneys in clearing toxins from the blood – a job usually performed by the organ.   

Researchers, who published their findings on Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, gathered data from nearly 500,000 Medicare patients who are undergoing dialysis treatment.

Medicare is available to Americans aged 65 and older, meaning that all members of the data set were people whose age put them at risk of serious Covid complications.

Around 12 percent, or 60,000, people whose data was included in the study tested positive for Covid.

More than a quarter, 15,612 – or 26 percent – ended up dying from the virus.

The researchers then pulled out specific members of the population that had stayed at a nursing home at some point in the previous year.

They found that people who had stayed at a nursing home for less than 90 days were 1.56 times as likely to die from Covid.

Dialysis who had longer nursing stays were the most at risk population, being nearly five times as likely to die from Covid. 

Covid in nursing homes has been a problem in the U.S. since the very start of the pandemic.

Nursing homes are often densely filled with people most at risk of severe complications from the virus, and outbreaks within them can be especially deadly. 

According to official data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 719,408 nursing home residents in America have tested positive for Covid, as of Wednesday morning.

More than one out of every four dialysis patients that are one Medicare who contracted Covid ended up dying from the virus, accounting for more than 15,000 deaths. Pictured: A woman in Edinburg, Texas, is treated for COVID-19 symptoms on July 8

More than one out of every four dialysis patients that are one Medicare who contracted Covid ended up dying from the virus, accounting for more than 15,000 deaths. Pictured: A woman in Edinburg, Texas, is treated for COVID-19 symptoms on July 8

Dialysis patients who had stayed at nursing home for 90 days or longer were most at risk of dying from Covid last year, experiencing a 4.68 times increased risk of death (file photo)

Dialysis patients who had stayed at nursing home for 90 days or longer were most at risk of dying from Covid last year, experiencing a 4.68 times increased risk of death (file photo)

More than 139,000 residents have died from the virus, a harrowing death rate of nearly 20 percent.

For comparison, just over one percent of the total U.S. population that has contracted Covid succumbed to the virus.

Being black or Hispanic or living in a rural area also put patients at an increased risk of death from Covid.

Researchers also found a surge of excess deaths suffered by elderly dialysis patients during the pandemic.

Starting in March 2020, when the pandemic first began in the U.S., the rate of deaths among dialysis patients of Medicare began to outpace the norm.

From 2013 to 2019, deaths followed similar trends, with around 1.5 percent of elderly dialysis patients dying every month, and the number slightly increasing over winter.

In 2020, the figure constantly fluctuated between 1.5 and two percent, before reaching a high of 2.5 percent late in the year.

The end of 2020 saw the rise of the largest COVID-19 surge the nation has suffered to date.

The data end at the end of 2020, and do not included the early months of 2021 where cases and deaths reached their peak.  



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