Oncologist Dr. Belinda Yeoh and a patient

Departments

Keeping our kidneys healthy

Dr Jason Chuen is a vascular, endovascular and transplant surgeon who has worked at Austin Health for more than 10 years.

For Kidney Health Week, we spoke to Jason about the importance of keeping our kidneys healthy.

Tell us about the importance of kidney health.

Kidney disease is something that affects the whole body. It impacts how we investigate patients, what medications we can use safely, how, whether, or when to operate. You may not realise it, but doctors are constantly deciding whether what they do will help or harm kidney function, and assess if poor kidney function is present.

What work or research are you currently undertaking in the kidney space?

Together with the nephrology team, we're researching exactly when is the right time to create a haemodialysis fistula (connecting an artery to a vein to make placing the needles for dialysis easier), and how we can keep it working effectively. Our renal transplant surgery team is also brainstorming new techniques to perform transplants through smaller incisions or using robotic technology, and the tools that are needed to make that possible.

Do you have any interesting facts about kidneys?

Did you know that the kidney starts out as one organ and splits into two because an artery gets in the way as you grow? Occasionally we have patients where the kidney grows around the artery but doesn't split. Those patients have one big u-shaped kidney which we call a "horseshoe kidney".

What's the best thing about being a kidney specialist?
Vascular surgeons have relationships with patients that span years and sometimes decades. During that time, we get to know people really well and we also have opportunities to make a difference to their lives. It's sometimes a heart-breaking journey, but the best thing is when patients and their families tell us that it was worth it.