Beta-blockade in chronic dialysis patients

Semin Dial. Jan-Feb 2008;21(1):43-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-139X.2007.00367.x.


Approximately 50% of the mortality in chronic dialysis patients is due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, and arrhythmia are all common conditions and predispose to sudden death, which accounts for 60% of all cardiac deaths in this population. Despite advances in dialysis therapy, the mortality from CVD remains substantially unchanged, partly due to the lack of evidence-based strategies for improving the outcome of cardiac diseases in this population. Activation of the sympathetic adrenergic system is well documented in chronic dialysis patients and is likely involved in the pathogenesis of myocardial hypertrophy, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and arrhythmia. Given the proven benefit of beta-blockers in patients with normal kidney function with similar cardiac comorbidities, beta-blockers would seem to be attractive agents to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in the patient population with advanced chronic kidney disease. However, the value of beta-blockade in patients on chronic dialysis remains unclear. This uncertainty surrounding the efficacy is compounded by the risk of side effects to these patients, such as hypotension, bradycardia, and hyperkalemia. In addition, numerous studies have suggested suboptimal usage of beta-blockers in the dialysis population; this is seen even in high risk patients, such as those with established coronary artery disease. In this review, we will focus on sympathetic nervous system activation in kidney disease and highlight the benefit and risks of beta-blockers usage in the chronic dialysis patient population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Renal Dialysis / methods*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / drug effects
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists