To examine the effect of hemodialysis on plasma homocysteine levels, and the relationship of these values to clinical cardiovascular events in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
Adults undergoing chronic hemodialysis were studied at baseline and at six months. Their clinical histories were obtained at the baseline visit, and measurements of plasma homocysteine concentration were made immediately prior to and following routine dialysis. The occurrence of clinical cardiovascular events was assessed over six months.
We enrolled 147 patients (85 men and 62 women, age 58 +/- 15 years) who required hemodialysis for 3.4 +/- 3.4 years (mean +/- SD). The median homocysteine level for this population (including both pre- and post-dialysis values) was 17.3 micromoles/L. Mean pre-dialysis plasma homocysteine levels of patients with clinical cardiovascular disease did not differ significantly from those without the disease (22.5 +/- 9.9 vs. 25.4 +/- 24.5 micromoles/L, respectively), nor did post-dialysis levels differ between these populations. During six months follow-up, rates of ischemic events were not related to hyperhomocysteinemia. The difference between mean pre- and post-dialysis homocysteine levels (26.3 +/- 19.7 and 15.6 +/- 11.4 micromoles/L, respectively) and the decline in homocysteine over the course of a single dialysis treatment session (10.3 +/- 10.2 micromoles/L) were highly significant (p<0.0005).
Plasma homocysteine levels were elevated in 82% of 147 patients with ESRD and fell to the normal range in a majority of patients during a single dialysis treatment session. Mean pre-dialysis levels did not change significantly over six months, however, and plasma homocysteine levels did not predict cardiovascular events in this population. There was also a trend towards worse outcomes in patients with lower homocysteine levels, which correlates to findings from recent studies. Further studies are needed to clarify the association between hyperhomocysteinemia and coronary risk in patients with ESRD.