Nephrologists are doctors that specialize in treating pediatric and adult diseases and conditions of the kidneys. The kidneys are important organs in the body that manage waste, regulate blood cells, balance water, and control blood pressure.
To become a nephrologist, aspiring doctors need to graduate from medical school with either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy.
Nephrology is a specialty medicine that requires both the completion of a residency program and a further specialization after. Doctors going into nephrology will complete a residency program in internal medicine. The residency will be followed by a 1-3 year fellowship specifically in nephrology.
Doctors need a medical license to practice medicine in any state. Medical licenses are awarded at the state level, so the requirements will vary from state to state. Medical licenses allow doctors to practice any type of medicine and do not signal expertise in one field of medicine.
After earning a medical license and completing a residency program, doctors can gain board certification to demonstrate a high level of skill in a specific area of medicine. Nephrologists can gain two board certifications: one in internal medicine through the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and another specifically in nephrology also through the ABIM.
Nephrologists will be required to maintain board certification through continued education programs, self- assessments, and eventually through re-taking the original certification exams.
Where Nephrologists Work
Nephrologists usually work in private practice settings that may be connected to hospitals. Nephrologists often care for patients on dialysis. These doctors can also work directly for hospitals, or they can work in clinical, educational, or research settings.
How They Help People
Nephrologists treat medical conditions in the kidneys, the two bean-shaped organs in the abdominal cavity that have important regulatory functions. The kidneys remove waste and drugs from the body, balance fluids, release hormones that help with blood pressure, and control the production of red blood cells.
Patients who visit nephrologists are usually referred by their primary care physician for specialty care. The nephrologist will complete a full physical examination on the patient and talk to the patient about his or her medical history.
Nephrologists will perform a variety of diagnostic tests on patients if they suspect something is wrong. They may take a blood or urine sample to test the functionality of the kidneys, or order an ultrasound or biopsy of the kidney to look for problems.
Common conditions nephrologists treat include:
- Kidney stones
- Kidney disease
- Mineral metabolism
- Chronic renal failure
- Kidney stones
- Electrolyte disorders
- Chronic UTI
- High blood pressure
When nephrologists find problems with the way a patient's kidneys are functioning the doctor will diagnose the condition and create a treatment plan.
Nephrologists will provide basic treatments to patients, like medication, but they cannot provide treatment for all types of kidney problems. If a patient needs a major treatment like dialysis, cancer treatment, removal of kidney stones, or a kidney transplant, the nephrologist will refer the patient to a different specialty doctor for treatment, but may continue to provide checkups to the patient and help manage aspects of the patient's care. Nephrologists will not perform the dialysis operation, but they will meet with dialysis patients to manage other health effects like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.
The average salary of a nephrologist is $242,000.
Medical Negligence and Nephrologists
Damaged kidneys can have effects on many parts of the body. Reduced kidney function can cause nerve damage, heart problems, loss of bone density, and other serious health problems. Though some kidney problems arrive with very few symptoms and notice, most kidney problems are chronic and develop in tandem with other common diseases, like diabetes.
It is important to diagnose kidney problems in the early stages to prevent long-term or life-long problems like kidney failure or even death. There are a variety of tests nephrologists can perform to test kidney function, including urine and blood samples, to detect growing kidney problems.
Kidney problems can also stem from mismanaged treatment of diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), or glomerulonephritis. Diabetes and hypertension are two of the leading causes of kidney conditions, even though these conditions can be managed by a doctor.
Medical malpractice can occur when nephrologists fail to diagnose a major kidney condition, misdiagnoses of a condition, fail to take diagnostic tests and interpret and communicate the results of those tests.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered serious injury while under the care of a nephrologist, you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian have a proved track record of success in getting victims the compensation they deserve after medical negligence. Call our offices today at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options. We will not charge any attorney fees until you get the compensation you deserve.