Dropsy, Dialysis, Transplant
A Short History of Failing Kidneys
Small and bean shaped, the kidneys are sophisticated organs that filter waste from the blood. A number of diseases and disorders—including diabetes and hypertension—can harm the kidneys and cause them to fail.
Historian and nephrologist Steven J. Peitzman traces the medical history of kidney disease alongside the personal experience of illness. Drawing on diaries, letters, literary narratives, and scientific writings, Peitzman charts the triumphs of medical innovators like Richard Bright, Thomas Addis, and Belding Scribner as well as the stories of persons, famous and not, who have struggled with the disease.
Conditions once known as "Bright’s Disease" are now recognized as complex disorders with names such as glomerulopathy and acute tubular necrosis. Treatments have evolved from abdominal tapping and dietetics to hemodialysis and transplantation. Medical advances have improved the well-being and prognosis of persons with failing kidneys. Yet such persons continue on an arduous journey of chronic illness. Peitzman travels with them, from diagnosis to treatment, and witnesses their remarkable ability to cope.
Joining the clinician’s perspective with the historian’s analysis, this fascinating chronicle offers insight into how diseases are defined, categorized, and understood and explains current concepts of how kidney disease behaves and how modern therapy works.
About the Author
Steven J. Peitzman is a professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine and a senior medical advisor at the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.
From time to time, a compelling little book arrives on the medical scene... Peitzman's book will be useful to a wide range of readers, from students in the biomedical sciences to researchers to laypersons.
Peitzman takes his readers through both the science and the clinical and ethical issues of transplantation. As a nephrologist himself, he know the medicine from the inside, and has great empathy for the patients he has spent his professional career treating. His mix of science and suffering makes for a fine book, always readable and often moving.
This is a general interest book that takes the reader into a highly specified field of discovery and treatment.
As a physician-historian, Peitzman composes his account of the transformations of kidney disease with an eye to both the present and the past, shifting frequently between his reconstruction of experience and understanding over the centuries with contemporary theory and therapies, often pointing out with a quip the ironies or frustrations of modern health care.
The foregrounding of the patient is not the only merit of this carefully crafted book. It also shows how other disciplines feed into medicine and medical innovation; medicine is not a scientifically isolated occupation.
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