USA – Behind the Invention: Wearable Artificial Kidney

Victor Gura, MD, inventor of the Wearable Artificial Kidney, spoke at MD&M West about design considerations, obstacles, and goals involved with developing a portable dialysis device.

If you’ve ever known someone who has had to be on dialysis, you know that the quality of life for dialysis patients is not great.

First of all, there is a pill burden.

« My patients need to eat 20 to 30 pills a day, » Victor Gura, MD, an internist, nephrologist, and inventor of the Wearable Artificial Kidney (WAK) told MD&M West attendees on Tuesday. « So one was making a joke. He said ‘I could put them in a bowl with some dressing and have a salad’. The bottom line is it’s a burden and it’s also expensive. »

In addition to the pill burden, dialysis patients are restricted in the amount of water and other fluids they can drink because if their kidneys are not working they retain water. They also cannot eat salty foods for the same reason.

Patients frequently end up in the hospital, they’re often chronically thirsty, they can’t eat what they want, and don’t sleep well. Many dialysis patients have trouble holding a job because they have to go to dialysis three days a week for four hours at a time so they end up on disability. All of these issues and more take a toll on their mental health, which is why many dialysis patients also suffer from depression.

So Gura and his team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles set out to take a 300-pound dialysis machine and make it small enough to be worn on a belt.

The WAK is a portable dialysis device designed to enable patients to experience the benefits of daily dialysis while performing their normal, day-to-day routines. The WAK’s unique design helps eliminate fluid on a regular basis to reduce strain on the kidneys, lungs, and heart while also reducing blood pressure.

Instead of having to be plugged into an electrical outlet, the WAK is battery operated. The device also requires only 370 CCs of water as opposed to 40 gallons, Gura said. The early iteration of the WAK weighed 11 pounds but Gura said the latest generation of the device weighs only two pounds. The device is connected to the patient via one catheter that is surgically inserted in a 20-minute procedure under a local anesthetic…