Etiology and prognostic significance of severe uremic pruritus in chronic hemodialysis patients

Kidney Int. 2006 May;69(9):1626-32. doi: 10.1038/


Although uremia is well known as the most common cause of pruritus, the mechanisms of pruritus in chronic hemodialysis patients remain unclear. The purpose was to characterize uremic pruritus in more detail and to investigate whether severe pruritus is a marker for poor prognosis. A total of 1773 adult hemodialysis patients were studied. A questionnaire was given to each patient to assess the intensity and frequency, as well as pruritus-related sleep disturbance. We analyzed the relationship between clinical and laboratory data and the severity of pruritus in hemodialysis patients and followed them for 24 months prospectively. In total, 453 patients had severe pruritus with a visual analogue scale (VAS) score more than or equal to 7.0. Among them, more than 70% complained of sleep disturbance, whereas the majority of patients with a VAS score of less than 7.0 had no sleep disturbance. Male gender, high levels of blood urea nitrogen, beta2-microglobulin (beta2MG), hypercalcemia, and hyperphosphatemia were identified as independent risk factors for the development of severe pruritus, whereas a low level of calcium and intact-parathyroid hormone were associated with reduced risk. During the follow-up, 171 (9.64%) patients died. The prognosis of patients with severe pruritus was significantly worse than the others. Moreover, severe pruritus was independently associated with death even after adjusting for other clinical factors including diabetes mellitus, age, beta2MG, and albumin. Severe uremic pruritus caused by multiple factors, not only affects the quality of life but may also be associated with poor outcome in chronic hemodialysis patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Urea Nitrogen
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercalcemia / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phosphates / blood
  • Prognosis
  • Pruritus / epidemiology*
  • Pruritus / etiology*
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uremia / complications*
  • Uremia / therapy*
  • beta 2-Microglobulin / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Phosphates
  • beta 2-Microglobulin