If your patient had COVID-19, ‘it’s reasonable to check kidney function’
“This information tells us that if your patient was sick with COVID-19 and comes for follow-up visits, it’s reasonable to check their kidney function,” Dr. Wilson, who was not involved with the research, told this news organization.
“Even for patients who were not hospitalized, if they were laid low or dehydrated ... it should be part of the post-COVID care package,” he said.
If just a fraction of the millions of COVID-19 survivors in the United States develop long-term kidney problems, the ripple effect on American health care could be substantial, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Al-Aly agreed.
“We’re still living in a pandemic, so it’s hard to tell the total impact,” Dr. Al-Aly said. “But this ultimately will contribute to a rise in burden of kidney disease. This and other long COVID manifestations are going to alter the landscape of clinical care and health care in the United States for a decade or more.”
Because renal problems can limit a patient’s treatment options for other major diseases, including diabetes and cancer, COVID-related kidney damage can ultimately impact survivability.
“There are a lot of medications you can’t use in people with advanced kidney problems,” Dr. Al-Aly said.
The main study limitation was that patients were mostly older White men (median age, 68 years), although more than 9,000 women were included in the VA data, Dr. Al-Aly noted. Additionally, controls were more likely to be younger, Black, living in long-term care, and have higher rates of chronic health conditions and medication use.
The experts agreed that ongoing research tracking kidney outcomes is crucial for years to come.
“We also need to be following a cohort of these patients as part of a research protocol where they come in every 6 months for a standard set of lab tests to really understand what’s going on with their kidneys,” Dr. Wilson said.
“Lastly – and a much tougher sell – is we need biopsies. It’s very hard to infer what’s going on in complex disease with the kidneys without biopsy tissue,” he added.
The study was funded by the American Society of Nephrology and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Al-Aly and Dr. Wilson reported no relevant financial relationships.
A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.