Anemia is prevalent in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and is associated with lower quality of life and higher risk of adverse outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and death. Anemia management in patients with CKD currently revolves around the use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents and supplemental iron. However, many patients do not respond adequately and/or require high doses of these medications. Furthermore, recent clinical trials have shown that targeting higher hemoglobin levels with conventional therapies leads to increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, particularly when higher doses of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents are used and in patients who are poorly responsive to therapy. One explanation for the poor response to conventional therapies in some patients is that these treatments do not fully address the underlying cause of the anemia. In many patients with CKD, as with patients with other chronic inflammatory diseases, poor absorption of dietary iron and the inability to use the body's iron stores contribute to the anemia. Recent research suggests that these abnormalities in iron balance may be caused by increased levels of the key iron regulatory hormone hepcidin. This article reviews the pathogenesis of anemia in CKD, the role and regulation of hepcidin in systemic iron homeostasis and the anemia of CKD, and the potential diagnostic and therapeutic implications of these findings.
Copyright 2010 National Kidney Foundation, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.