50 Years Ago…

Fifty years ago, in 1963, VA opened its first kidney dialysis units as part of a pilot project at three hospitals: Wadsworth in Los Angeles, Hines, and Mount Alto in D.C.

Nurse Maria ter Welle modeling  1st artificial kidney in Netherlands  1941/43The first hemodialysis machine (left) was built in 1943 by Dutch physician, Dr. Willem Kolff, during World War II.  In 1960, a successful shunt was developed in America by Dr. Belding Scribner and Wayne Quinton, a biomedical instrument maker, at the University of Washington hospital in Seattle to alleviate problems in filtering and circulating blood in patients using hemodialysis machines. Within three years of that breakthrough, VA became the first Federal agency to open kidney dialysis units as a pilot project.  The first patient was treated on December 12, 1963 and, by 1966, VA’s hemodialysis pilot program had progressed into a full-blown program.  Ten years later hemodialysis centers were located at over 50 hospitals.

 VA has been at the forefront of kidney disease research.  In 1967 VA medical research investigators at Mount Alto (D.C.) “collaborated in the design and construction of a new hemodialysis system” that could treat “up to 10 patients simultaneously,”  while at VA’s Bronx hospital, Dr. Jack Cimino and fellow researchers developed a new surgical technique  “to connect an artery and vein under the skin surface of the forearm” that facilitated the removal of “blood from the body during a purification process. . .and return[ed] blood to the body in a purified state.” The technique became known as the arterio-venous fistula.

 Until recently, VA dialysis centers were located within the walls of a hospital.  On May 18, 2011, VA’s first free-standing dialysis clinic opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

One out of 10 Americans has some form of chronic kidney disease and hemodialysis is a proven lifesaver.  VA continues to lead improvements in dialysis equipment and best practices through its cooperative medical research studies and clinical trials.  Mobile dialysis units and VA’s e-Kidney Clinic are just a few of recent innovations.






Dr. Cimino: http://www.holyname.org/md360/JanFeb10/pa6.asp



VA’s e-Kidney Clinic:  http://ckd.vacloud.us/#ekidneyclinic

by the Historian,

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


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