Cardiovascular disease and cognitive function in maintenance hemodialysis patients

Am J Kidney Dis. 2011 Nov;58(5):773-81. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2011.03.034. Epub 2011 Jul 20.


Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cognitive impairment are common in dialysis patients. Given the proposed role of microvascular disease on cognitive function, particularly cognitive domains that incorporate executive functions, we hypothesized that prevalent systemic CVD would be associated with worse cognitive performance in hemodialysis patients.

Design: Cross-sectional cohort.

Setting & participants: 200 maintenance hemodialysis patients without prior stroke from 5 Boston-area hemodialysis units.

Predictor: CVD, defined as history of coronary disease or peripheral vascular disease.

Outcome: Performance on a detailed neurocognitive battery. Primary analyses quantified cognitive performance using principal components analysis to reduce cognitive tests to a processing speed/executive function domain and a memory domain. Multivariable linear regression models adjusted for age, sex, education, race, and other clinical and demographic characteristics.

Results: Mean age of participants was 62 ± 18 (standard deviation) years and 75 (38%) had CVD. Individuals with CVD were older and more likely to be men, have diabetes, and be current or former smokers. In adjusted models, individuals with CVD performed 0.50 standard deviation worse (P < 0.001) on tests assessing processing speed/executive function, whereas there was no difference in performance on tests of memory. Similar results were seen assessing individual tests, with performance on the Block Design, Digit Symbol Coding, and Trail Making Tests A and B significantly associated with CVD in age-, sex-, education-, and race-adjusted analyses and approaching significance in fully adjusted models.

Limitations: CVD ascertainment dependent on patient recall and dialysis unit documentation. No brain imaging.

Conclusions: The presence of CVD is associated with worse cognitive performance on tests of processing speed and executive functioning in hemodialysis patients and identifies a high-risk population for greater difficulty with complex tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis*