Dialysate sodium and sodium gradient in maintenance hemodialysis: a neglected sodium restriction approach?

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2011 Apr;26(4):1281-7. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfq807. Epub 2011 Feb 8.


Background: A higher sodium gradient (dialysate sodium minus pre-dialysis plasma sodium) during hemodialysis (HD) has been associated with sodium loading; however, its role is not well studied. We hypothesized that a sodium dialysate prescription resulting in a higher sodium gradient is associated with increases in interdialytic weight gain (IDWG), blood pressure (BP) and thirst.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study on 1084 clinically stable patients on HD. A descriptive analysis of the sodium prescription was performed and clinical associations with sodium gradient were analyzed.

Results: The dialysate sodium prescription varied widely across dialysis facilities, ranging from 136 to 149 mEq/L, with a median of 140 mEq/L. The mean pre-HD plasma sodium was 136.7 ± 2.9 mEq/L, resulting in the majority of subjects (n = 904, 83%) being dialyzed against a positive sodium gradient, while the mean sodium gradient was 4.6 ± 4.4 mEq/L. After HD, the plasma sodium increased in nearly all patients (91%), reaching a mean post-HD plasma sodium of 141.3 ± 2.5 mEq/L. We found a direct correlation between IDWG and sodium gradient (r = 0.21, P < 0.0001). After adjustment for confounders and clustering by facilities, the sodium gradient was independently associated with IDWG (70 g/mEq/L, P < 0.0001). There were no significant associations among sodium gradient and BP, whether measured as pre-HD systolic (r = -0.02), diastolic (r = -0.06) or mean arterial pressure (r = -0.04). Post-HD thirst was directly correlated with sodium gradient (r = 0.11, P = 0.02).

Conclusion: Sodium gradient is associated with statistically significant and clinically meaningful differences in IDWG in stable patients on HD.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Weight
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hemodialysis Solutions / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Sodium / administration & dosage*
  • Sodium / blood
  • Thirst
  • Weight Gain


  • Hemodialysis Solutions
  • Sodium