Fatigue in Patients Receiving Maintenance Hemodialysis: A Review

Am J Kidney Dis. 2023 May 13;S0272-6386(23)00631-5. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2023.02.008. Online ahead of print.


Fatigue surrounding hemodialysis treatments is a common and often debilitating symptom that impacts patients' quality of life. Intra-dialytic fatigue develops or worsens immediately prior to hemodialysis and persists through the dialysis treatment. Little is known about associated risk factors or pathophysiology, although it may relate to a classical conditioning response. Post-dialysis fatigue (PDF) develops or worsens after hemodialysis and may persist for hours. There is no consensus on how to measure PDF. Estimates for the prevalence of PDF range from 20-86%, likely due to variation in methods of ascertainment and participant characteristics. Several hypotheses seek to explain the pathophysiology of PDF, including inflammation, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation, and osmotic and fluid shifts, but none is currently supported by compelling or consistent data. PDF is associated with several clinical factors, including cardiovascular and hemodynamic effects of the dialysis procedure, laboratory abnormalities, depression, and physical inactivity. Clinical trials have reported hypothesis-generating data about the utility of cold dialysate, frequent dialysis, clearance of large middle molecules, treatment of depression, and exercise as potential treatments. Existing studies are often limited by sample size, lack of a control group, observational design, or short intervention duration. Robust studies are needed to establish the pathophysiology and management of this important symptom.

Keywords: fatigue; hemodialysis; intra-dialytic fatigue; post-dialysis fatigue.

Publication types

  • Review