Periode: 1946

Afmetingen: H: 107,0 cm B: 150,0 cm D: 81,0 cm

Inventarisnummer: V03800

The artificial kidney, developed by Willem Johan Kolff is really amazingly simple. It consists of a large drum made of wooden slats surrounded by a cellophane tube of about 40 m in length. Half of the drum hangs in a container with rinsing fluid and rotates around the axis of its length. In this manner a continuously different part of the cellophane tube is immersed in the fluid. The blood from the patient is taken from an artery in the forearm via a rubber tube and a rotatable connector into the hollow axis of the drum. Then the blood is pushed to the cellophane housing where it continually seeks the lowest point along the rotating drum thus remaining surrounded by rinsing fluid. Urea and other solved products in the blood disappear through the pores in the cellophane whilst the rest of the blood flows further due to the turning motion of the drum. Finally it returns into the hollow axis and via a second rotatable connector is pumped back into the patient. An air bubble catcher prevents the formation of air bubbles.

The artificial kidney turned out to be particularly suitable for the treatment of patients with a sudden disruption to the kidney function. In their case, the kidneys are usually only temporarily out of action. With a limited number of dialyses the toxic symptoms (uraemia) disappear and the kidneys have the opportunity to recover. Initially, the prolonged treatment of kidney patients was not possible. In such cases the kidney machine had to be repeatedly connected to the circulating system in the body and this led to insurmountable problems such as inflammations in the area where the connection between the circulating system in the body and the machine was made. This problem was not solved until 1960. Then the Americans Scribner and Quinton introduced the arteriovenous shunt. This consisted of cannulas made from Teflon and silicon rubber which could be implanted in an artery and a vein in the arm or leg. When connected with each other the blood flowed at a considerable rate from the artery to the vein. The connection to the kidney machine just required the tubes to be clamped and separated from each other. In many cases the patient could do this himself.

The artificial kidney is used a lot by patients in whom the filtering function of the kidneys has deteriorated, so-called renal insufficiency.
Acute renal insufficiency can occur in various ways. For example as a consequence of accidents, such as serious burns, or during serious operations associated with the blood vessels not filling well combined with a strongly reduced circulation of the kidneys. Another cause of an acute reduction in the renal function is serious blood poisoning. A serious ‘blood poisoning’ (sepsis) can cause vasodilation in the peripheral blood vessels. As a result of this insufficient blood circulates in the rest of the body and a circulatory disorder occurs. Furthermore, a lung embolism or heart infarct can lead to serious circulatory disorders, which in turn can give rise to renal insufficiency. In the case of an acute renal insufficiency the patient produces less and in many cases no urine at all. As result of this, toxic waste products from the metabolism accumulate in the patient, with the result that the patient develops kidney poisoning (uraemia) or problems from blood clotting disorders. In such cases a quick haemodialysis with the assistance of a artificial kidney is the best treatment.