Kidney failure, new heart attack?

Last updated 16:06 12/02/2014

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Kidney failure could be the new heart attack, with more people dying than had been expected, a study has found.

The study examined 1058 patients in New Zealand and Australia and found two-thirds were dead within 3-1/2 years.

The study, led by the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, has surprised researchers, who previously thought chances of survival were good for those who survived the first 90 days.

About 50,000 Australians and 11,000 New Zealanders a year suffer acute kidney failure, also known as acute kidney injury. It usually occurs as a complication in seriously ill people who are already in hospital.

Research leader Associate Professor Martin Gallagher said the death rate for those who suffered kidney failure was higher than for those who had high-risk conditions such as heart attacks.

However, many of those who died were older people and the actual cause of death could be related to their original medical condition, he said.

Kidney Health New Zealand's medical director Professor Kelvin Lynn said it was a "wake-up call", similar to when people recognised the danger of heart attacks many years ago.

"What their research is showing is it's actually very serious, and it's a marker of people who do very badly - they do worse than if you have a heart attack," he said.

"It would be nice to be able to improve that, and prevent that."

An early test was needed, as well as more education in areas of hospitals that were not used to dealing with kidney health and less likely to recognise an injury, Lynn said.

"The real challenge is to try and fix things up at the beginning. Then you can identify patients that need special treatment, put the resources where they're needed, and get a better understanding of what happens with the condition."

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