Cardiovascular disease in chronic renal failure: pathophysiologic aspects

Semin Dial. Mar-Apr 2003;16(2):85-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-139x.2003.16023.x.


Cardiovascular complications are the leading cause of mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The excess cardiovascular risk and mortality is already demonstrable in early renal disease and in patients with chronic renal failure (CRF), with the highest relative risk of mortality in the youngest patients. The high risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) results from the additive effect of multiple factors, including hemodynamic overload and several metabolic and endocrine abnormalities more or less specific to uremia. CVD includes disorders of the heart (left ventricular hypertrophy [LVH], cardiomyopathy) and disorders of the vascular system (atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis), these two disorders being usually associated and interrelated. LVH is the most frequent cardiac alteration in ESRD, resulting from a combined pressure and volume overload. LVH in general is an ominous prognostic sign and an independent risk factor for arrhythmias, sudden death, heart failure, and myocardial ischemia. Regression of LVH needs a combined intervention to reduce hemodynamic overload and is associated with improved prognosis and survival. Clinical studies have shown that damage of large conduit arteries is a major contributing factor for the high incidence of congestive heart failure (CHF), LVH, ischemic heart disease (IHD), sudden death, cerebrovascular accidents, and peripheral artery diseases. Damage to large conduit arteries is principally related to highly calcified occlusive atherosclerotic lesions and to stiffening of large capacitive arteries. These two complications are independent risk factors for survival, and improvement of arterial stiffness is associated with better prognosis and survival. The present review summarizes the most recent works dealing with the pathophysiology of CVD and some aspects of the therapeutic approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / physiopathology
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / epidemiology
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / physiopathology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Myocardial Contraction
  • Ventricular Pressure
  • Ventricular Remodeling / physiology