The U.S. Special Forces raid that killed mass murderer Osama bin Laden may bring more questions than answers. With bin Laden dead and buried at sea, speculation is sure to linger about whether he needed dialysis treatments for his failing kidneys.
In a dramatic address to the world last night, President Barack Obama said a U.S. Navy SEAL team invaded the walled compound "deep inside Pakistan" where bin Laden was hiding out. The terrorist kingpin resisted and was shot in the head in the ensuing firefight.
Although bin Laden denied the infirmity, in 2002 Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said bin Laden had kidney disease and had two dialysis systems shipped to Afghanistan when he lived there.
There’s no word yet on whether dialysis equipment was found at the compound, but if bin Laden indeed suffered from renal failure he would have required it to survive. Dialysis treatment involves replacing lost kidney function by filtering waste products from the blood.
There are two methods: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. In hemodialysis, blood is drawn across a semi-permeable membrane to exchange waste and excess water with the dialysate solution on the other side of the membrane (peritoneal dialysis uses the body’s own peritoneal membrane to effect the exchange).
Both treatments take hours, and must be performed several simes weekly. Several manufacturers, including NxStage Medical Inc. (NSDQ:NXTM) and Baxter International (NYSE:BAX), make systems designed to allow patients to undergo hemodialysis at home.
But even home hemodialysis requires at least one attendant; peritoneal dialysis would likely require at least once physician and perhaps an entire urology team. How bin Laden managed to arrange for such sophisticated medical care for close to a decade will be a subject of scrutiny as the story of his life and death unspools.