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Kidney Disease – A Guide for Living

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Title: Kidney Disease – A Guide for Living

Author: Walter A Hunt

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011

Reviewer: Lynda Sibson, telemedicine project manager, Addenbrookes Hospital and Lecturer, Coventry University and independent nurse consultant

What was it like?

Kidney Disease – A Guide for Living is a 187-page self-help guide for patients with kidney disease. This paperback covers eight chapters and is authored by a neuropharmacology expert and a medical researcher who, following his diagnosis of kidney disease, was “overwhelmed by the prospect of kidney failure”. Dr Hunt describes his journey of self-exploration through information and fact finding and the result is a informative book addressing most aspects of kidney disease. The book covers every topic from understanding renal failure, the function of kidneys, why renal failure occurs, diagnosis and management of kidney disease, prevention and postponing kidney failure, dialysis, transplantation and future treatment options.


It also includes a useful list of resources, ranging from educational, financial and support networks to nutrition and donor websites. This is an interesting section thatmay not be relevant to UK patients, particularly the information on transplantation since the US health service is a largely private, insurance-based organisation and US patients have access to organisations that actively match patients with living donors.

On the whole, the book of well-written, easy-to-read and describes the author’s journey from diagnosis to transplantation, with the aid of some useful and informative advice. There are some simple sub-headings in each chapter, which makes the book particularly useful to dip in and out of, as a patient.

The underlying philosophy of the book is one of education and self-help and stresses the point that kidney disease is not the “death sentence” that it once was, with advancements in dialysis and transplantation.

This book also touches on the emotional aspect of renal disease and provides clear explanations and diagrams to explain renal anatomy, physiology and the pathology of kidney disease. There is also a section on the background to the causes of kidney failure, with diagrams and statistical information, which again may not be relevant to a UK audience, as well as the section reviewing the management of the underlying kidney disease and symptoms.

However the chapter on dialysis has some useful diagrams explaining peritoneal dialysis and haemodialysis and while there maybe differences in the associated machinery, the basic principles will remain similar.  There is also a helpful list of foods and their associated potassium and phosphorus levels and their importance in a renal diet.

A chapter on transplantation describes living and deceased donor organs; describing the pre- and post-operative transplantation care (again this may vary to the UK). There is also an interesting section on clinical trials – perhaps due to the author’s profession – and rather promotes patient participation in clinical drug trials as a potential route to receiving a kidney. This is clearly a different approach to the UK, and some readers may disapprove of this approach.

The author also discusses the current state of research into kidney disease in the US – focusing on future treatment options, including advances in dialysis, transplantation, new developments in anti-rejection therapy and zenotransplantation.

What were the highlights?

The key highlight is this book is written by a renal patient for renal patients. As a medical researcher, the author has a unique ability to present the key relevant information in lay patient language.

Strengths & weaknesses:

This book is easy to read for most kidney patients. It is clear that the author has had first-hand experience of renal disease (polycystic kidney disease) and subsequent care – having experienced renal dialysis and successful transplantation.

The key weakness of the book is that is aimed at a US audience and the resources may not be relevant to UK readers, for example; the transplant donor websites section and the section on potential financial aid..

Who should read it?

Potential readers would include patients and their friends/relatives who had recently been diagnosed with kidney disease and were facing the prospect of renal dialysis and/or transplantation.


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