Aims: Recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO) is widely used to correct renal anemia in uremic patients. Interestingly, some chronic hemodialysis (HD) patients can maintain high hemoglobin level without the need of r-HuEPO. The aim of this study is to investigate clinical features, iron metabolism and erythropoiesis of these r-HuEPO-independent HD patients.
Methods: r-HuEPO independence was defined in dialysis patients as hemoglobin greater than 12 g/dl and no use of r-HuEPO for at least 6 months. An age- and sex-matched group was selected for comparison. Their underlying diseases, duration of hemodialysis therapy, efficacy of dialysis (Kt/V), normalized protein catabolic rate (nPCR) and body mass index (BMI) were recorded. Laboratory data including: hemoglobin, albumin, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, serum iron, total iron binding capacity, transferrin saturation, ferritin, intact parathyroid hormone, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), serum EPO, cortisol, testosterone, aluminum and leptin levels were measured. Renal sonography was also performed in each patient to evaluate renal cyst formation.
Results: About 2.3% of all HD patients (21/888; M : F = 18 : 3) were r-HuEPO-independent. These patients had significantly longer HD duration and higher serum EPO and sTfR levels, and lower transferrin saturation rate than dependent groups. Correlation analysis revealed that hemoglobin level strongly correlated with HD duration, serum sTfR and EPO levels. Levels of sTfR were positively related with serum EPO levels and BMI. Multivariate regression analysis showed that level of sTfR was the only independent factor related to r-HuEPO independence.
Conclusion: R-HuEPO independence is rare among chronic hemodialysis patients. Factors contributing to this dependence are complex and multiple. Level of serum sTfR parallels erythropoiesis and is the most significant factor associated with r-HuEPO independence in chronic HD patients.