World Journal of Nephrology

Hidden risks associated with conventional short intermittent hemodialysis: A call for action to mitigate cardiovascular risk and morbidity

Bernard Canaud, Nicholas M. Selby, Maarten W. Taal, Susan Francis, Andreas Maierhofer, Pascal Kopperschmidt, Allan Collins, Jeroen Kooman, Peter Kotanko


The development of maintenance hemodialysis (HD) for end stage kidney disease patients is a success story that continues to save many lives. Nevertheless, intermittent renal replacement therapy is also a source of recurrent stress for patients. Conventional thrice weekly short HD is an imperfect treatment that only partially corrects uremic abnormalities, increases cardiovascular risk, and exacerbates disease burden. Altering cycles of fluid loading associated with cardiac stretching (interdialytic phase) and then fluid unloading (intradialytic phase) likely contribute to cardiac and vascular damage. This unphysiologic treatment profile combined with cyclic disturbances including osmotic and electrolytic shifts may contribute to morbidity in dialysis patients and augment the health burden of treatment. As such, HD patients are exposed to multiple stressors including cardiocirculatory, inflammatory, biologic, hypoxemic, and nutritional. This cascade of events can be termed the dialysis stress storm and sickness syndrome. Mitigating cardiovascular risk and morbidity associated with conventional intermittent HD appears to be a priority for improving patient experience and reducing disease burden. In this in-depth review, we summarize the hidden effects of intermittent HD therapy, and call for action to improve delivered HD and develop treatment schedules that are better tolerated and associated with fewer adverse effects.

About the Author

Dr. Peter Kotanko, MD

RRI Research Director

SVP, Corporate Research & Development

Peter Kotanko, MD, is Research Director at the Renal Research Institute (RRI), New York. Prior to joining RRI, from 1997 to 2007 he served as vice chair of a department of internal medicine at an academic teaching hospital in Graz, Austria. Prior to moving to Graz in 1989, he worked from 1982 to 1989 in the Department of Physiology and the University Clinic of Internal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria. From 1995 to 1996 he trained in nephrology at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kingdom.