As more research becomes available on the health effects of COVID-19, it is evident those with underlying medical conditions are most at risk for severe illness or death. A recent study looked at the prevalence of kidney failure among those hospitalized with COVID-19.

The study showed that nearly 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York City eventually developed Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) requiring dialysis. The study released in September said the onset of AKI was a good indicator of the severity of the disease among patients.

Chief of the Department of Medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital, Dr. Jorge Cerda, said those with existing medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension are at a high risk to develop AKI secondary to getting COVID-19. Developing AKI also puts patients at risk for kidney-related medical conditions in the future, he said.

Preexisting conditions can further complicate the prognosis of patients with AKI due to COVID-19. Although some may recover quickly once the symptoms of the virus begin to subside, those with preexisting conditions could have to remain on dialysis longer. Dr. Cerda said AKI secondary to COVID-19 could mean patients suffer long term injury to their kidneys.

Minorities, who are more likely to have an underlying health condition and more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, are also at a greater risk of developing AKI, said Dr. Cerda.

Much remains to be learned about COVID-19 and why some patients will develop multiple organ failure or AKI as a result of the virus. What doctors do know is that AKI secondary to COVID-19 is similar to kidney failure as a result of sepsis, explains Dr. Cerda.