Association of dialysate bicarbonate concentration with mortality in the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS)

Am J Kidney Dis. 2013 Oct;62(4):738-46. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2013.03.035. Epub 2013 May 24.


Background: Most hemodialysis patients worldwide are treated with bicarbonate dialysis using sodium bicarbonate as the base. Few studies have assessed outcomes of patients treated with different dialysate bicarbonate levels, and the optimal concentration remains uncertain.

Study design: The Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS) is an international prospective cohort study.

Setting & participants: This study included 17,031 patients receiving thrice-weekly in-center hemodialysis from 11 DOPPS countries (2002-2011).

Predictor: Dialysate bicarbonate concentration.

Outcomes: All-cause and cause-specific mortality and first hospitalization, using Cox regression to estimate the effects of dialysate bicarbonate concentration, adjusting for potential confounders.

Measurements: Demographics, comorbid conditions, laboratory values, and prescriptions were abstracted from medical records.

Results: Mean dialysate bicarbonate concentration was 35.5 ± 2.7 (SD) mEq/L, ranging from 32.2 ± 2.3 mEq/L in Germany to 37.0 ± 2.6 mEq/L in the United States. Prescription of high dialysate bicarbonate concentration (≥38 mEq/L) was most common in the United States (45% of patients). Approximately 50% of DOPPS facilities used a single dialysate bicarbonate concentration. 3,913 patients (23%) died during follow-up. Dialysate bicarbonate concentration was associated positively with mortality (adjusted HR, 1.08 per 4 mEq/L higher [95% CI, 1.01-1.15]; HR for dialysate bicarbonate ≥38 vs 33-37 mEq/L, 1.07 [95% CI, 0.97-1.19]). Results were consistent across levels of pre-dialysis session serum bicarbonate and between facilities that used a single dialysate bicarbonate concentration and those that prescribed different concentrations to individual patients. The association of dialysis bicarbonate concentration with mortality was stronger in patients with longer dialysis vintage.

Limitations: Due to the observational nature of the present study, we cannot rule out that the reported associations may be biased by unmeasured confounders.

Conclusions: High dialysate bicarbonate concentrations, especially prolonged exposure, may contribute to adverse outcomes, likely through the development of postdialysis metabolic alkalosis. Additional studies are warranted to identify the optimal dialysate bicarbonate concentration.

Keywords: Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS); Hemodialysis; observational; outcomes; statistics.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bicarbonates / analysis*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dialysis Solutions / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Dialysis / mortality*


  • Bicarbonates
  • Dialysis Solutions