As we observe World Kidney Day, Dr Hitesh Gupta, Nephrologist at SMVDNSH says that while a better understanding of the modes of transmission, and adoption of better safety protocols have helped reduce the rates of infection, more needs to be done to eliminate or minimise Hepatitis C infection through dialysis.
Between 8 and 10% of the adult population have some form of kidney damage globally, and every year millions die prematurely of complications related to Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD). Hepatitis C infection can be highly dangerous and even fatal for patients with Chronic Kidney Disease.
Understanding Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver over the long term and can lead to liver inflammation, cirrhosis (scarring), and even chronic issues such as liver cancer. A lack of awareness amongst people and unethical practices of certain healthcare providers adds to the risk.
Hepatitis C can spread in various ways through bodily fluids, injectables, blood transfusion and unprotected sexual contact. However, malpractices during blood transfusions and dialysis play a significant role in the spread of the virus.
Why is this occurring?
Dialysis is a treatment that filters and purifies the blood using a machine, it is generally used for patients with End Stage Renal Disease. Thousands of patients undergo dialysis in India every day.
Safety and hygiene protocols are very important during dialysis to prevent blood-related infections among patients. Since machines and equipment used in dialysis used for multiple patients, the risk of infection increases if proper efforts are not made to cut the risk. A common cause of transmission during this process include frequent re-use of dialysis tubes and dialysis filters.
Ideally, all patients undergoing dialysis must be religiously screened for hepatitis C and separate dialysis equipment must be used for people carrying the infection. At the same time, staff and personnel handling the process must be properly trained to meet the required hygiene standards.
How can this be avoided?
Strict adherence to universal protocols standardised by the World Health Organization (WHO) in hospitals and healthcare centres is critical to minimising the spread of Hepatitis C infections.
A series of important safety protocols are needed to check the spread of infection during dialysis. Keeping used filters in a separate room is important to reduce chances of hospital acquired infections. Similarly, fistula needles set (used in conjunction with the connector of Hemodialysis blood tubing set) can also spread the infection, and need to be handled with care. Hand washing and hygiene also need to be prioritised, especially in re-purposing units and phials in the dialysis units need to be tested thoroughly.
Dr. Hitesh Gupta
SMVD Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Kakrayal, Katra, Jammu