Skip to content
Subscriber Assistance+1 215 942 8342
Subscriber Login
Shop Here
Kidney health

Press announcement

Why Kidney Stones Present a High Shoreside Evaluation Rate and How To Mitigate The Risks

Ahead of World Kidney Day (14 March), MedSea, an International SOS Company, shares insights into seafarer kidney health.

In 2023, a multinational study1  revealed that approximately 850 million people are affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD) worldwide (10%), a significant burden upon global health.

The kidneys play an important role in the body, filtering waste products and excess fluids from the blood, maintaining a balance of electrolytes and producing urine.

For seafarers, kidney stones (hard deposits of minerals and salts that cluster together in the kidneys and urinary tract) are the most common kidney related problem. They represent approximately 1-2 cases every week, over 60% of MedSea’s urological cases. Dehydration is a common contributing factor to kidney stones but medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, and previous kidney stones can also increase the risk.

The majority (70%) of kidney stone cases require onshore evaluation.
Dr Katherine Sinclaire, Senior Medical Advisor at MedSea says that
The shoreside evaluation rate is significantly higher than that seen for most other medical categories. This is because usually, even if your symptoms are resolved, special imaging studies such as a CT scan or ultrasound are needed to determine if all the stones have passed. If they haven’t, it could pose a significant risk of developing renal colic further down the line. In 35% of cases, the kidney stones are not passed quickly, and the seafarer needs to return home for treatment.
Kidney stone severity depends on factors like the stone’s size and location and can cause various symptoms including:
  • Pain: In the side of the abdomen, flank or groin. Often severe, and can come on in waves, hence described as renal colic.
  • Vomiting: Due to severe pain
  • Blood in the urine (haematuria): This is a common finding in kidney stones but often is not visible to the naked eye and can only be detected on a urine strip test, hence the importance of having these simple tests on board.
  • Pain or difficulty when urinating
Often the body is able to pass kidney stones on its own, however sometimes they require intervention such as surgery or using shock wave therapy to break them into smaller pieces.

A kidney stone that does not pass may cause an obstruction in urine flow resulting in back pressure on the kidneys, which can cause kidney damage.

Although kidney stones are most commonly seen onboard, advocacy for kidney health as a whole, within seafarers is very important. Other kidney related issues include:
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): UTIs can affect different parts of the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra and kidney. These infections can often be treated onboard when detected early and can be prevented by keeping well hydrated.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: A progressive condition where the kidneys gradually lose their function over time. Most common causes are poorly controlled diabetes and high blood pressure.
Illnesses affecting the kidneys and urinary tract can present with a variety of symptoms such as pain in the abdomen or kidney area, problems passing urine or even non-specific symptoms such as vomiting or fever.

Given the pain and potential for complications, kidney issues pose wider implications to productivity and work safety. Management should consider the following, to encourage kidney health and mitigate kidney stone cases.
  1. Education and Awareness:
    • Raise awareness about common signs and symptoms.
    • Provide crew members with informational materials.
  2. Hydration and Nutrition:
    • Promote adequate water intake.
    • Provide/encourage balanced meals with essential nutrients.
  3. Control of Underlying Risk Factors:
    • Control of medical conditions that are risk factors for kidney stones will help to. prevent them from forming.
  4. Emergency Protocols:
    • Equip crew with knowledge on handling kidney-related emergencies.
    • Ensure seafarers obtain medical advice early and often to manage the situation effectively.

By implementing preventive measures and fostering a culture of health awareness, you can safeguard your seafaring workers and ensure smooth voyages.

1. 2023 International Society of Nephrology (ISN-GKHA): Shaping the Future of Kidney Health Worldwide

For media inquiries, please contact:
Luc Hill
Marketing Manager, MedAire
M: +44 (0)7587 627 811
About MedSea

MedSea is the maritime arm of International SOS. We help ship owners, managers and operators to fulfil their Duty of Care to seafarers and build a resilient workforce.

Every year we provide telemedical assistance to thousands of seafarers worldwide, supporting all types of physical and emotional health issues. When a case cannot be solved onboard, MedSea refers to our network of 104,000+ approved and verified shoreside medical providers, ensuring that seafarers receive the highest level of care possible.

For 25+ years MedSea has been supporting the worldwide maritime community, helping to maintain happy, healthy vessels.

About the International SOS Group of Companies
The International SOS Group of Companies is in the business of saving lives and protecting your global workforce from health and security threats. Wherever you are, we deliver customised health, security risk management and wellbeing solutions to fuel your growth and productivity. In the event of extreme weather, an epidemic or a security incident, we provide an immediate response providing peace of mind. Our innovative technology and medical and security expertise focus on prevention, offering real-time, actionable insights and on-the-ground quality delivery. We help protect your people, and your organisation's reputation, as well as support your compliance reporting needs. By partnering with us, organisations can fulfil their Duty of Care responsibilities, while empowering business resilience, continuity, and sustainability.

Founded in 1985, the International SOS Group, headquartered in London & Singapore, is trusted by over 9,000 organisations. This includes the majority of the Fortune Global 500. As well as mid-size enterprises, governments, educational institutions, and NGOs. Nearly 12,000 multi-cultural security, medical, logistics and digital experts stand with you to provide support & assistance from over 1,200 locations in 90 countries, 24/7, 365 days. Between them, International SOS employees speak nearly 100 languages and dialects in our Assistance Centres, Clinics, and offices.

To protect your workforce, we are at your fingertips: