Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that this is most frequently related to damage of large conduit arteries. Macrovascular disease develops rapidly in uremic patients and is responsible for the high incidence of ischemic heart disease, sudden death, peripheral artery diseases, and congestive heart failure. The most frequent causes of these complications are occlusive lesions due to atherosclerosis. Nevertheless, atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by the presence of plaques, represents only one form of structural response to metabolic and hemodynamic alterations which interfere with the process of aging, i.e., arteriosclerosis, characterized by dilation/hypertrophy and stiffening of arteries. The vascular complications in ESRD are ascribed to two different but associated mechanisms, namely atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. Whereas the former principally affects the conduit function with ischemic lesions being the most characteristic consequence, the latter primarily disturbs the cushioning function of large arteries. Arteriosclerosis in ESRD patients is characterized by diffuse dilation and hypertrophy of large conduit arteries and stiffening of arterial walls and represents a clinical form of accelerated aging process. The main clinical characteristics of arterial stiffening concern changes in blood pressure with isolated increase in systolic pressure and normal or lower diastolic pressure. The consequences of these alterations are: (1) an increased left ventricular afterload with development of left ventricular hypertrophy and increased myocardial oxygen demand and (2) altered coronary perfusion and subendocardial blood flow distribution. Epidemiological studies have identified arterial remodeling and stiffening as independent predictors of overall and cardiac mortality in ESRD patients.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel