Lithium therapy in patients on dialysis: A systematic review

Int J Psychiatry Med. 2022 May;57(3):187-201. doi: 10.1177/00912174211028544. Epub 2021 Jun 26.


Background: Lithium is a first-line pharmacotherapy for the treatment of bipolar disorder, but long-term use is associated with nephrotoxicity. However, as dialysis effectively eliminates lithium, it remains a pharmacotherapeutic option for patients on dialysis. This systematic review seeks to evaluate the dosing, safety, efficacy, and monitoring of lithium in patients receiving dialysis.

Method: A PubMed database search performed May 5th, 2020, identified 535 article titles. After exclusion criteria were applied, a total of 15 articles were included in this systematic review.

Results: In 18 patients receiving dialysis, lithium was primarily used for the treatment of mood disorders. The majority of patients received 300-900 mg lithium carbonate thrice-weekly following dialysis, but several alternative lithium salts and dosing strategies were utilized. The pharmacokinetic properties of lithium in dialysis are not well understood and can be complicated by a serum lithium "rebound effect" following dialysis, due to a two-compartment volume of distribution. Additionally, presence of residual diuresis in some patients may be reason to administer lithium more frequently than thrice-weekly following dialysis. Lithium was shown to be an effective pharmacotherapy in all patients, with many demonstrating rapid improvement after drug initiation. Five patients experienced an adverse event on lithium, but only one patient required lithium discontinuation.

Conclusion: Lithium may be used in patients on dialysis, with close monitoring of pre-dialysis serum lithium concentrations for at least two weeks after treatment initiation, followed by a lower frequency after stabilization to ensure therapeutic concentrations and reduce toxicity risk.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; end-stage renal disease; hemodialysis; lithium; renal replacement.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimanic Agents / adverse effects
  • Dialysis
  • Humans
  • Lithium Carbonate / adverse effects
  • Lithium Carbonate / pharmacokinetics
  • Lithium*
  • Renal Dialysis*


  • Antimanic Agents
  • Lithium Carbonate
  • Lithium