New research could help kids with kidney disease avoid dialysis and transplants

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- About one in 10 adults has some degree of kidney disease. You may not realize it can happen to kids, too. Some are born with it. New research by a Kansas City doctor could help more kids avoid kidney failure and transplants.

A year ago, Marley Martinac's face was very swollen.

"And they thought it was allergies, so we kept going back," said her mother Katie Martinac.

But it wasn't allergies. One day, when Marley had seizure-like symptoms, she was transferred to Children's Mercy Hospital. Her abdomen was very swollen, too.

"And within 20 minutes, they knew what it was," said Martinac.

A simple urine test, which hadn't been been done before, showed Marley had chronic kidney disease at just 23 months old.

"We really don't want her to have a transplant or be on dialysis," said Martinac.

Dr. Bradley Warady of Children's Mercy led the largest study ever of U.S. children with kidney disease to see what makes it more likely that the disease will progress to kidney failure and the need for dialysis and transplants. The study found that high blood pressure, anemia or the presence of protein in the urine worsens the course of disease.

"I think the good news is that all of these things can be treated. We want to be able to detect risk factors right when they arise, so we can treat them aggressively and hopefully modify that course or long-term outcome of these children," said Dr. Warady.

He says pediatricians and parents need to be aware of warning signs.

"Any parent, any child with swollen eyes or a swollen abdomen, they have to think about kidney disease," he said.

Some powerful medicines are helping Marley.

"Overall, she seems still herself through all of it," said Martinac.

But she'll need to be weaned off those meds because of side effects. Her mom hopes that by controlling her blood pressure and other factors, she won't ever need dialysis or a transplant.

The research was published Thursday in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.