Patients on maintenance dialysis commonly develop protein-energy wasting (PEW), which is associated with poor survival. There have been several advances in anabolic interventions aimed at improving PEW in these patients in recent years.
Oral or parenteral nutritional supplementation, especially if administered during dialysis, improves net protein anabolism in chronic hemodialysis patients. These beneficial effects have been extended to long-term benefits in recent clinical trials. Resistance exercise, alone or combined with intradialytic oral nutrition supplementation, also improves net protein balance in the acute setting although recent studies indicated a limited beneficial effect of long-term exercise alone on muscle protein accretion in chronic hemodialysis patients. Anabolic agents such as growth hormone and androgens have been shown to exert significant benefits on visceral protein stores, muscle mass and strength. Ghrelin, a hormone with combined orexigenic and anti-inflammatory effects, is a potential new nutritional intervention in maintenance dialysis patients.
Existing anabolic therapeutic strategies have proven to be effective in improving PEW in maintenance dialysis patients. Combined anabolic interventions and several new and established anabolic hormones represent further promising nutritional interventions. Large-scale randomized controlled trials examining the effects of anabolic interventions on mortality and morbidity are still lacking.