Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the leading cause of death in hemodialysis patients, accounting for death in up to one-quarter of this population. Unlike in the general population, coronary artery disease and heart failure often are not the underlying pathologic processes for SCD; accordingly, current risk stratification tools are inadequate when assessing these patients. Factors assuming greater importance in hemodialysis patients may include left ventricular hypertrophy, electrolyte shift, and vascular calcification. Knowledge regarding SCD in hemodialysis patients is insufficient, in part reflecting the lack of an agreed-on definition of SCD in this population, although epidemiologic studies suggest the most common times for SCD to occur are toward the end of the long 72-hour weekend interval between dialysis sessions and in the 12 hours immediately after hemodialysis. Accordingly, it is hypothesized that the dialysis procedure itself may have important implications for SCD. Supporting this is recognition that hemodialysis is associated with both ventricular arrhythmias and dynamic electrocardiographic changes. Importantly, echocardiography and electrocardiography may show changes that are modifiable by alterations to dialysis prescription. The most effective preventative strategy in the general population, implanted cardioverter-defibrillator devices, are less effective in the presence of chronic kidney disease and have not been studied adequately in dialysis patients. Last, many dialysis patients experience SCD despite not fulfilling current criteria for implantation, making appropriate allocation of defibrillators uncertain.
Copyright © 2011 National Kidney Foundation, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.