A Pilot Study of the Safety and Efficacy of Alkali Therapy on Vascular Function in Kidney Transplant Recipients

Kidney Int Rep. 2021 Jun 24;6(9):2323-2330. doi: 10.1016/j.ekir.2021.06.006. eCollection 2021 Sep.


Introduction: Metabolic acidosis is associated with cardiovascular events, graft function, and mortality in kidney transplant recipients (KTRs). We examined the effect of alkali therapy on vascular endothelial function in KTRs.

Methods: We performed an 18-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover pilot study examining the effect of sodium bicarbonate therapy versus placebo on vascular function in 20 adult KTRs at least 1 year from transplant with an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) ≥45 ml/min per 1.73 m2 and a serum bicarbonate level of 20 to 26 mEq/L. Each treatment period was 8 weeks in duration with a 2-week washout period between treatments. The primary outcome was change in brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) between sodium bicarbonate treatment and placebo.

Results: Twenty patients completed the study and were included in the primary analysis. The mean (SD) baseline eGFR of participants was 75 (22) ml/min per 1.73 m2, respectively. Serum bicarbonate levels did not increase significantly with treatment (0.3 [1.5] mEq/L, P = 0.37). Sodium bicarbonate therapy was not associated with worsening blood pressure, weight gain, or hypokalemia. There was no significant increase in FMD after 8 weeks of sodium bicarbonate therapy compared to placebo (mean change in FMD 2.2%, 95% CI -0.1 to 4.6, P = 0.06). There were no significant changes in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, eGFR, or urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio during treatment. Urinary ammonium excretion decreased by 9 mmol/d (P=0.003), with sodium bicarbonate.

Conclusions: Sodium bicarbonate therapy is safe and feasible in KTRs, and our results strengthen the need for a larger randomized controlled trial.

Keywords: alkali therapy; kidney transplantation; metabolic acidosis; serum bicarbonate; sodium bicarbonate; vascular endothelial function.