Many Missed Dialysis Sessions after Katrina, Study Finds

More than 40 percent of New Orleans hemodialysis patients missed one or more dialysis sessions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, suggests a study in Kidney International.

The researchers performed phone interviews with 386 patients from nine New Orleans dialysis units regarding their Katrina experiences, including how the disaster affected their dialysis schedule. Forty-four percent of patients said they missed at least one dialysis session, while 17 percent missed three or more sessions.

Multiple missed sessions were more likely for patients with certain characteristics: being on dialysis for less than two years (compared to five years or longer); having 38 or fewer billed dialysis sessions; and being unaware of their dialysis center’s emergency plan. Risk was also higher for patients who lived alone before Katrina, who did not evacuate before the storm made landfall, and who were placed in a shelter. For patients missing three or more sessions, the adjusted odds ratio for hospitalization was 2.16, compared to those who did not miss any sessions.

The results show the high rate and serious consequences of missed dialysis sessions for victims of a natural disaster. The findings help to identify groups at particularly high risk. Disaster preparedness plans should emphasize patient awareness of their dialysis center’s emergency plan, as well as early activation of the plan [Anderson AH, Cohen AJ, Kutner NG, Kopp JB, Kimmel PL, Muntner P: Missed dialysis sessions and hospitalization in hemodialysis patients after Hurricane Katrina. Kidney Int 2009; 75:1202–1208].