One unforeseen source of stress for intensive care units in COVID-19-positive hospitals has been the disease's association with kidney damage. In some New York hospitals, 30% of severely affected coronavirus patients also experience a loss of kidney function that requires lots of dialysis treatments to remedy.

Patients severely affected by COVID-19 usually need dialysis to filter their blood for much longer periods than they need to use a respirator for help breathing. Hospital systems that suddenly find themselves treating hundreds of coronavirus patients with dialysis are blasting through the usual amount of supplies kept on hand. 

Intensive care unit physician with a clipboard

Image source: Getty Images.

Unprecedented demand

Hospital employees aren't the only ones noticing rapidly diminishing dialysis supplies. Baxter (BAX) manufacturers dialysis fluids, and the company's seeing a five-fold increase in demand at the moment. The FDA hasn't reported any shortages of dialysis equipment or supplies, although people that needed regular dialysis treatments before the COVID-19 pandemic could see disruptions at a local level.

Around one in seven adults in the U.S. is living with chronic kidney disease, and many of them need a regular supply of dialysis fluids. At the moment, Baxter is manufacturing new supplies at top speed to meet spiking demand in coronavirus hot spots without disrupting the usual supply.

Baxter and its peers might be able to keep supply chains from breaking down, but there isn't much that hospitals can do to boost a limited number of trained nursing staff available to administer time-consuming dialysis treatments.