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Nephrology is the study and treatment of kidney disease. Doctors, nurses and technicians all specialize in treating patients with kidney disorders. Nephrologists treat patients with kidney disorders and manage transplant protocols in hospitals and for transplant networks. They also manage dialysis centers and programs. Like other specialists, these doctors serve an additional residency in their field, beyond the standard training for a general practitioner. Because kidney disease affects the entire body, a nephrologist must also have a good grasp on other aspects of internal medicine, and how renal failure can cause other body systems to fail.
Kidney disorders may be caused by congenital defects, by disease or by lifestyle. Nephrology deals with all these disorders, regardless of their origin. The field even specializes into pediatric nephrology, which deals exclusively with kidney disease or disorders in children.
Doctors have attempted to treat kidney diseases for centuries, but like many other medical conditions, it has only been in the past 75-100 years that any real headway has been made in treating these diseases. New technologies for diagnosing kidney disease, new treatments and medications have all enabled the nephrologist to treat his or her patients with a greater degree of success. Joseph Murray performed the first successful kidney transplant in 1954 and was later awarded a Nobel Prize for his achievement.
Nurses and technicians are an integral part of the nephrology field, as well. These medical professionals are often trained in administering hemodialysis and teaching patients how to perform peritoneal dialysis. They may also be a front-line team for helping spot complications before they become life-threatening.
Dietitians and social workers even have their places in the nephrology field. They work closely with doctors and nurses, focusing on helping patients live quality lives, as well as helping families understand their loved one's medical issues. Nephrology is a complicated field and requires dedication from all involved to ensure the best in patient care.