Cardiovascular complications in chronic dialysis patients

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Purpose of review

This review article focuses on the most significant cardiovascular complications in dialysis patients [sudden cardiac death (SCD), acute coronary syndromes, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation].

Recent findings

Current and ongoing research aims to quantify the rate and pattern of significant arrhythmia in dialysis patients and to determine the predominant mechanism of SCD. Preliminary findings from these studies suggest a high rate of atrial fibrillation and that bradycardia and asystole may be more frequent than ventricular arrhythmia as a cause of sudden death. A recently published matched cohort study in dialysis patients who received a defibrillator for primary prevention showed that there was no significant difference in mortality rates between defibrillator-treated patients and propensity-matched controls. Two randomized controlled trials are currently recruiting participants and will hopefully answer the question of whether implantable or wearable cardioverter defibrillators can prevent SCD. An observational study using United States Renal Data System data demonstrated how difficult it is to keep hemodialysis patients on warfarin, as more than two-thirds discontinued the drug during the first year. The ISCHEMIA-CKD trial may provide answers about the optimal strategy for the treatment of atherosclerotic coronary disease in patients with advanced chronic kidney disease.


The article reviews the diagnosis of acute coronary syndromes in dialysis patients, current literature on myocardial revascularization, and data on fatal and nonfatal cardiac arrhythmia. The new classification of heart failure in end-stage renal disease is reviewed. Finally, available cohort studies on warfarin for stroke prevention in dialysis patients with atrial fibrillation are reviewed.

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