Background: Prealbumin (transthyretin) is a hepatic secretory protein thought to be important in the evaluation of nutritional deficiency and nutrition support. Prior studies have suggested that the serum prealbumin concentration is independently associated with mortality in hemodialysis patients, even with adjustment for serum albumin and other nutritional parameters.
Methods: To determine whether prealbumin was independently associated with mortality and morbidity (cause-specific hospitalization) in hemodialysis patients, we analyzed data on 7815 hemodialysis patients with at least one determination of serum prealbumin during the last three months of 1997. Unadjusted, case mix-adjusted, and multivariable-adjusted relative risks of death were calculated for categories of serum prealbumin using proportional hazards regression. We also determined whether the prealbumin concentration was associated with all-cause, cardiovascular, infection-related, and vascular access-related hospitalization.
Results: The relative risk (RR) of death was inversely related to the serum prealbumin concentration. Relative to prealbumin > or =40 mg/dL, the adjusted RRs of death were 2.41, 1.85, 1.49, and 1.23 for prealbumin <15, 15-20, 20-25, and 25-30 mg/dL, respectively. The adjusted RRs of hospitalization due to infection were 2.97, 1.95, 1.81, and 1.61 for prealbumin <15, 15-20, 20-25, and 25-30 mg/dL, respectively. The adjusted RRs of vascular access-related hospitalization were 0.48, 0.52, 0.58, and 0.71 for prealbumin <15, 15-20, 20-25, and 25-30 mg/dL, respectively. While serum albumin was strongly associated with mortality and all-cause hospitalization, it was not associated with hospitalization due to infection, and lower levels were associated with higher rather than lower rates of vascular access-related hospitalization.
Conclusion: In hemodialysis patients, lower prealbumin concentrations were associated with mortality and hospitalization due to infection, independent of serum albumin and other clinical characteristics. Higher prealbumin concentrations were associated with vascular access-related hospitalization. In light of these findings, more intensive study into the determinants and biological actions of prealbumin (transthyretin) in end-stage renal disease is warranted.