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azM develops at-home blood test for kidney transplant patients

At-home blood test

The Maastricht Academic Hospital (azM) has developed a new method that allows kidney transplant patients to take blood tests at home. Using a finger prick pen, patients collect a few drops of blood on a card (blood spot sample) and then send the card to the hospital. The azM lab analyses the blood spot sample and the attending physician notifies the patient of the results. Kidney transplant patients are prescribed medications known as immuno-suppressants that prevent the body from rejecting the new organ. To maintain the right dosage, the patient has to take regular blood tests to determine the level of medication in their blood. It’s important to draw the blood in the morning on an empty stomach. Until now, patients had to go to the hospital to have their blood drawn. This meant getting up early and waiting in line at the blood clinic. They would then have to wait to see a doctor who would have no results for them anyway. This was not very patient-friendly, particularly given that many transplant patients have to travel far to get to the clinic. But a method has now been developed that allows patients to draw blood at home and send the sample to the hospital – the finger prick test. If the sample is sent two weeks before the followup consult, the results will be available on the day of the appointment. In the past, it was not possible to administer the finger prick test at home simply because the equipment needed to analyse the blood spots was not sensitive enough. But recent technological improvements have finally made reliable testing methods possible. According to research nurse Monique Mullens and analyst Karin Hoogstanders, this new method is a resounding success. “Not only is the burden of travelling a thing of the past, doctors can now give patients their results when they come in for their follow-up consult. We can also monitor patients who are out of the country for vacation or work. They simply send a blood sample and receive their results and any medication changes by phone or mail,” explains Mullens. The success of the new method depends entirely on the quality of the blood samples, which is why training sessions have been organised for patients as well. Roughly sixty patients currently use this method, but every year seventy new kidney transplant patients are added to the list. In theory, this means seventy potential clients for the at-home test. An additional forty patients will participate in a research study that requires them to administer so-called ‘curves’ (several at-home blood tests per day) and send them to the hospital. As these curves are traditionally administered in the hospital, this would mean fewer hospital admissions for the patient. The at-home blood test is unique in the Netherlands and is expected to be picked up by the rest of the country and eventually the world. “Distances are relatively small in the Netherlands, but this is very different in countries like Sweden and France,” explains Mullens.

Maastricht University Medical Centre+ In January 2008, Maastricht University Medical Centre+ was established as the result of a merger between the Maastricht Academic Hospital (azM) and the Maastricht University Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences. This MUMC+ is the eighth university medical centre in the Netherlands. Maastricht UMC+ has three core tasks: patient care, education & training, and research. In addition to offering standard patient care, our key priorities also include top clinical care and referral care. These have been closely aligned with fundamental and (experimental) clinical research, resulting in the following clinical research areas: cardiovascular disease, oncology, chronic diseases, mental health and neurosciences.

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