COOKEVILLE – Ten years and counting. While it’s been exactly a decade since Dr. Anju Mendiratta saw her first patient in Cookeville, she isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
In fact, Mendiratta, a nephrologist, or kidney specialist, is looking to at least expand her offerings of home dialysis – a treatment option she greatly encourages – beyond her current borders as it becomes an easier – and more convenient – option for patients.
Mendiratta was not the first in the area to offer the option of the at-home treatment, but she is arguably its biggest advocate in the Upper Cumberland. Roughly 50 percent of her patients – both young and old – opt to do dialysis this way.
“It’s pretty much a luxury,” Mendiratta said. “It saves them from traveling, and it’s much gentler on the body. I have some patients who have been doing it for seven or eight years with very little issues. I look forward to expanding that treatment in other places.”
Mendiratta, a native of New Delhi, India, first came to Cookeville in 2005 and has since made her home in the bustling small town. She says she was always interested, “ever since I was a little kid,” in the complexity of the kidneys, relatively small organs that filter waste out of the blood. She currently serves as the medical director for the Sparta DaVita Dialysis Center, and, along with her own practice at Cumberland Kidney Specialists, located on North Oak Avenue, also sees patients at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, and Cookeville and Livingston DaVita Dialysis centers.
Mendiratta largely treats chronic kidney diseases, although other areas of interest include hypertension, fluid balance, electrolytes imbalance, transplants and more.
It’s sometimes a tough specialty, as dealing with chronic illness can be, but Mendiratta says she’s aggressive in her treatment. For example, she was instrumental in implementing a CRRT, a slow dialysis program, short for continuous renal replacement therapy, for critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Treatment is done over a 24-hour period, rather than three or four hours, which is generally better tolerated. Many CRMC ICU nurses are now trained to do it, she said.
Her ultimate goal, she added, is to protect whatever kidney function may be left, keeping a patient at stage one, for example, from progressing to stage 2, or preventing a stage four patient from progressing to stage five, which ultimately means dialysis, a medical treatment that removes waste, salt and extra water from building up in the body when the kidneys fail.
But if a patient is faced with such a treatment, it’s easier than ever to do it at home, Mendiratta said.
Currently, she offers home dialysis in Cookeville and Sparta, but Mendiratta hopes to expand beyond that reach in the region. She says home dialysis produces better results, among other benefits.
“It gives them freedom,” she said. “They have to come in and see us just once a month as compared to (going to a treatment center) three times a week, it’s much gentler on your body and heart and it helps patients psychologically as they can sometimes do it at night while sleeping. I had a 93-year-old patient do dialysis at home with help of her family members, and she did great. It gives me a great satisfaction to see my patients doing well.”
She says high blood pressure and diabetes are the main cause for kidney failure. She recommends patients steer clear of over-the-counter meds other than Tylenol, and start to more closely monitor their health around age 40.
“For people who wait for a long time to get treatment, there’s not much else I can do. But people are becoming more aware of it,” Mendiratta said. “I would say early referrals from the primary physician is key to preventing kidney failure, or to prevent having so many patients on dialysis.”
Dr. Anju Mendiratta is a nephrologist at Cumberland Kidney Specialists, located at 221 N. Oak Ave., Cookeville, and medical director for the Sparta DaVita Dialysis Center, 150 Sam Walton Drive, Suite 800. She is board certified in internal medicine and nephrology. For more information, call (931) 646-0880.