Unexpected haemodynamic instability associated with standard bicarbonate haemodialysis

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2003 Nov;18(11):2369-76. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfg383.


Background: The bicarbonate concentration in dialysis fluids for intermittent haemodialysis usually is between 32 and 35 mmol/l. The severity of chronic metabolic acidosis secondary to end-stage renal failure is very variable, however, so that in some patients pre-dialysis acidosis is overcorrected. This study aimed to analyse haemodynamic tolerances to metabolic alkalosis during intermittent haemodialysis.

Methods: In this randomized controlled trial with a single blind, cross-over design, we used dialysis liquids with two different bicarbonate concentrations, 32 (modality A) and 26 (modality B) mmol/l, and in 26 patients, 468 dialysis sessions, compared blood pressure, heart rate, incidence of hypotension and the frequency of corrections required with saline or hypertonic glucose infusions.

Results: The results of intradialytic haemodynamic monitoring for modalities A and B, respectively, were: lowest systolic blood pressure 120.8+/-20.8 vs 124.3+/-20.6 mmHg (P < 0.01); mean systolic blood pressure 138.5+/-23.8 vs 144.6+/-24.8 mmHg (P < 0.001); and highest heart rate 73.5+/-12.0 vs 75.8 +/- 12.9 (NS); with modality A, patients had more dialysis sessions with hypotensive episodes (5.55 vs 1.7%, P < 0.05) and required more saline or hypertonic glucose infusions (20.9 vs 13.7% of the dialysis sessions, P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Mild metabolic alkalosis resulting from standard bicarbonate haemodialysis (32 mmol/l) may induce symptomatic hypotension. While normalizing chronic metabolic acidosis is desirable, reducing bicarbonate concentrations should be considered in cases of significant alkalaemia or otherwise untreatable haemodynamic instability.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alkalosis / chemically induced*
  • Bicarbonates / adverse effects*
  • Bicarbonates / analysis
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Hemodialysis Solutions / adverse effects*
  • Hemodialysis Solutions / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Blind Method


  • Bicarbonates
  • Hemodialysis Solutions