Predialysis serum sodium level, dialysate sodium, and mortality in maintenance hemodialysis patients: the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS)

Am J Kidney Dis. 2012 Feb;59(2):238-48. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2011.07.013. Epub 2011 Sep 23.


Background: Predialysis serum sodium concentrations recently have been linked to patient characteristics and outcomes in hemodialysis patients and may have implications for the dialysate sodium prescription.

Study design: Prospective cohort study.

Participants: 11,555 patients from 12 countries in the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS), phases I (1996-2001) and III (2005-2008).

Predictors: Demographics, comorbid conditions, laboratory measurements (model 1); mean serum sodium level, dialysate sodium concentration (model 2).

Outcomes: Serum sodium level, using adjusted linear mixed models (model 1); all-cause mortality, using Cox proportional hazards models (model 2).

Results: Median follow-up was 12 months, with 1,727 deaths (15%) occurring during the study period (12,274 patient-years). Mean serum sodium level in the DOPPS countries was 138.5 ± 2.8 mEq/L. Japan had the highest (139.1 ± 2.6 mEq/L) and Australia/New Zealand had the lowest mean serum sodium level (137.4 ± 2.8 mEq/L). Serum sodium level was associated positively with male sex, black race, body mass index, serum albumin level, and creatinine level and negatively with neurologic and psychiatric disease, white blood cell count, and intradialytic weight loss (0.16 mEq/L lower per 1% loss). Higher serum sodium level was associated with lower adjusted all-cause mortality in a continuous model (HR, 0.95 per 1 mEq/L higher; 95% CI, 0.93-0.97). Dialysate sodium prescription was not associated with serum sodium level. Mortality analyses restricted to the serum sodium tertile with the highest mortality (serum sodium <137 mEq/L) showed lower mortality risk in patients with dialysate sodium prescriptions >140 mEq/L.

Limitations: Causality cannot be established in this observational study, which does not consider potential effects of dialysate sodium level on postdialysis thirst, dietary salt and water intake, interdialytic weight gain, and cardiovascular stability.

Conclusions: Lower serum sodium levels are associated with certain hemodialysis patient characteristics and higher adjusted risk of death. The lower mortality observed in our adjusted analyses in patients with serum sodium levels <137 mEq/L dialyzed against dialysate sodium prescriptions >140 mEq/L is intriguing, may be related to intradialytic cardiovascular stability, and deserves further study.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Dialysis Solutions / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Sodium / analysis*
  • Sodium / blood*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • Dialysis Solutions
  • Serum Albumin
  • Sodium
  • Creatinine