Anatomic brain disease in hemodialysis patients: a cross-sectional study

Am J Kidney Dis. 2013 Feb;61(2):271-8. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2012.08.035. Epub 2012 Oct 3.


Background: Although dialysis patients are at high risk of stroke and have a high burden of cognitive impairment, there are few reports of anatomic brain findings in the hemodialysis population. Using magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, we compared the prevalence of brain abnormalities in hemodialysis patients with that in a control population without known kidney disease.

Study design: Cross-sectional cohort.

Setting & participants: 45 maintenance hemodialysis patients and 67 controls without reported kidney disease, both without history of known stroke.

Predictor: The primary predictor was dialysis status. Covariates included demographics (age, race, and sex), vascular risk factors (diabetes and hypertension), and cardiovascular disease (coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure).

Outcomes: Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain features, including severity of white matter disease and cerebral atrophy (sulcal prominence and ventricular atrophy), hippocampal size, and small-/large-vessel infarcts.

Measurements: Semiquantitative scale (0-9 for white matter disease and cerebral atrophy, 0-3 for hippocampal size) and infarct prevalence.

Results: Mean ages of hemodialysis patients and controls were 55 ± 17 (SD) and 53 ± 13 years, respectively. In comparison to controls, hemodialysis patients had more severe white matter disease (1.6 vs 0.7) and cerebral atrophy (sulcal prominence, 2.3 vs 0.6; ventricular enlargement, 2.3 vs 0.9; hippocampal size, 1.3 vs 1.0), with all P < 0.001. In multivariable analyses, hemodialysis status was associated independently with worse white matter disease and atrophy grades. Hemodialysis patients also had a higher prevalence of small- (17.8%) and large- (7.8%) vessel infarcts than controls (combined, 22% vs 0%; P < 0.001).

Limitations: The dialysis cohort likely is healthier than the overall US hemodialysis population, partly limiting generalizability.

Conclusions: Hemodialysis patients have more white matter disease and cerebral atrophy compared with controls without known kidney disease. Hemodialysis patients also have a high prevalence of unrecognized infarcts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult