A referral to a kidney specialist can set alarm bells ringing in patients' heads. Most people associate a diagnosis of kidney disease with going on dialysis or needing a kidney transplant, both of which can take physical, emotional and financial tolls on patients and families. Referral to a kidney specialist does NOT necessarily mean bad news.
We pride ourselves in seeing patients referred by primary care doctors in the Greater Hartford area. Doctors from Enfield/Suffield, all the way down to the Rocky Hill/Cromwell area (and all surrounding towns in the Hartford region) trust us to take care of their patients with kidney issues. We do see patients sometimes from the northwest and northeast corners of the state. We welcome and see everyone irrespective of their ethnicity, financial status or gender identity if their doctors feel that they need to be evaluated by a kidney specialist. We are conveniently located just off the main thoroughfare of Bloomfield - Cottage Grove Road.
A lot of our patients are referred to us by their primary doctors because they were concerned about protein or blood in their patients urine samples. To most medical personnel, this is concerning for kidney inflammation which would require further testing including a kidney biopsy. Since nephrologists are equipped to diagnose and treat kidney inflammation, we are the first stop for a lot of people with these symptoms. Many of these conditions are treatable if detected early and may not cause long-term damage to the kidneys or the overall health. Common diseases that can affect the kidneys causing inflammation include strep infection, lupus, other autoimmune disorders and some medications.
Another set of people sent to see us are those, if their doctor notices a decline in kidney function (with a blood test called creatinine levels or estimated GFR). Some of this can happen with age, but many people with diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic kidneys or heart disease can also lose kidney function faster than the normal population. For these patients, our role will be to exclude other conditions that can damage the kidney, suggest treatment that can minimize the loss of kidney function, and look for/treat complications of kidney disease. Most of these patients have a kidney function level between 20 and 60%.
Sometimes, patients are asked to see us for swelling (edema) or uncontrolled high blood pressure, both of which may be signs of kidney disease.
Patients may need dialysis or get a kidney transplant only if their kidney function is below the 15% range. As kidney specialists, we are uniquely positioned to prepare patients for either of these treatments (only) if necessary. Patients may require a shunt placement in their arm (called fistula or graft) in a timely manner and we facilitate this with our surgeons. We refer patients to our local centers Yale New Haven Hospital or Hartford Hospital when kidney function is decreasing.
So seeing a kidney specialist does not necessarily spell “doom and gloom”. It could be a very beneficial visit, where patients learn how to protect their kidneys from getting damaged or damaged further, based on where they are starting. Many of us have cared for patients for 10-15 years this way, and they are nowhere close to being in kidney failure.
We work in collaboration with your primary doctor, offering them suggestions on further testing, changing medications uniquely suited to your kidney problems, and avoiding things that can damage your kidneys further.