Patients maintained on standard three times weekly hemodialysis have a high mortality rate and a limited quality of life. Some of this illness is due to systemic diseases that have caused kidney failure, and thus may be irreversible. But we presume that imperfect replacement of normal kidney function by dialysis contributes importantly. Patients on hemodialysis are subject to fluctuations in extracellular fluid volume and inorganic ion concentrations and their plasma levels of many organic waste solutes remain very high. It is thus natural to suppose that their health could be improved by increasing the intensity of dialysis treatment. But despite a great deal of work over the past 20 years, evidence that such improvement can be obtained is generally lacking. Specific benefits can indeed be achieved. Patients who cannot control their intradialytic weight gains or plasma phosphate levels with standard therapy can benefit from extending treatment time. But we cannot promise the average patient that longer or more frequent treatment will reduce mortality or improve the quality of life.
Published 2016. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.