The effect of hemodilution during normothermic cardiac surgery on renal physiology and function: a review

Perfusion. 2008 Nov;23(6):329-38. doi: 10.1177/0267659109105398.


Although the definitions of renal dysfunction vary, loss of renal function is a common complication following cardiac surgery using cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). When postoperative dialysis is required, mortality is approximately 50%. CPB-accompanied hemodilution is a major contributing factor to renal damage as it notably reduces oxygen delivery by reducing the oxygen transport capacity of the blood as well as disturbing the microcirculation. To minimize hypoxemic damage during CPB, lowering of body temperature is applied to reduce the patient's metabolic rate. At present, however, temperature management during elective adult cardiac surgery is shifting from moderate hypothermia to normothermia. To determine whether the currently accepted levels of hemodilution during CPB can suffice the normothermic patient's high oxygen demand, we focused this study on renal physiology and postoperative renal function. Hemodilution reduces the capillary density through a diminished capillary viscosity, thereby, redistributing blood from the renal medulla to the renal cortex. As the physiology of the renal medulla makes it a hypoxic environment, this part of the kidney appears to be especially at risk for hypoxic damage caused by a hemodilution-induced lowered oxygen transport and oxygen delivery. In addition, hemodilution is also likely to disturb the hormonal systems regulating renal blood distribution. Clinical studies, mostly of retrospective or observational nature, show that perioperative nadir hematocrit levels lower than approximately 24% are associated with an increased risk to develop postoperative renal failure. A better comprehension of the cause-and-effect relation between low perioperative hematocrits and loss of postoperative renal function may enable more effective renal protective strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Cardiopulmonary Bypass*
  • Hemodilution*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiology*