The Impact of Modern Treatment Principles May Have Eliminated Lithium-Induced Renal Failure

J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Feb;28(2):151-4. doi: 10.1177/0269881113516202. Epub 2013 Dec 17.


We have previously shown that lithium can cause end-stage renal disease (ESRD): however, this serious side-effect of lithium in prophylactic treatment of mood disorders may reflect the treatment regime of the 1960s and 1970s. Today's modern treatment routines, intended to reduce or eliminate lithium-induced ESRD (Li-ESRD), were introduced in Sweden in the early 1980s. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that these routines have eliminated the risk of Li-ESRD. We used the Swedish Renal Registry to identify patients on renal replacement therapy (RRT), treated with dialysis or renal transplantation, with suspected Li-ESRD in two regions of Sweden with altogether about three million inhabitants. We reviewed their medical records to verify the exposure to lithium treatment, the diagnosis of Li-ESRD and the date of starting the lithium treatment. We found 32 RRT patients in whom lithium treatment was the sole or main contributing cause of ESRD. The starting year of their lithium treatment was between 1965-1980 in all patients. No patient started lithium treatment later than 1980. Modern lithium treatment may have eliminated the risk of Li-ESRD. Our findings support the continued use of lithium as a safe drug for the long-term treatment of mood disorders.

Keywords: Affective disorders; adverse effects; chronic kidney failure; lithium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / chemically induced*
  • Lithium / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Renal Replacement Therapy


  • Lithium