Sodium ramping has been introduced as a technique to decrease side effects occurring during hemodialysis. We studied sodium ramping in 414 dialysis sessions in 23 patients by randomizing 2-week blocks of dialysis to either steady dialysate sodium of 140 mEq/L, linear sodium ramping during dialysis from 155 mEq/L to 140 mEq/ L, or stepwise ramping (sodium of 155 mEq/L for 3 hours and 140 mEq/L for 1 hour). We studied the number and severity of hypotensive and hypertensive episodes. A hypotensive episode was defined as an abrupt decline of systolic blood pressure of more than 50 mm Hg, a decrease in blood pressure accompanied by symptoms requiring intervention, or systolic blood pressure of less than 90 mm Hg even without symptoms. A hypertensive episode was defined as a sudden increase in systolic blood pressure of over 30 mm Hg. We also recorded other side effects (headache, cramps, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, thirst, fatigue, weight gain, and blood pressure) during, immediately after, and between dialysis sessions. There was no major difference between the two ramping protocols, but compared with standard dialysis, both decreased total number of side effects from 4.0 to 3.0 (P = 0.057); the number of hypotensive episodes decreased from 1.3 to 0.7 (P = 0.036). The lowest blood pressure was 114/66 mm Hg during control and 123/69 mm Hg during ramping (P < 0.0001). The frequency of cramps during dialysis decreased from 0.9 to 0.5 (P = 0.006). There was no difference in headache, nausea, or vomiting. The number of hypertensive episodes increased from 0.045 to 0.086 during ramping (P = 0.125). Of 23 patients, only five (22%) had a marked decrease in symptoms; two of the three most symptomatic patients showed no significant improvement. Between dialysis sessions, patients complained of more fatigue and thirst (P < 0.0001 and P = 0.0028, respectively), and interdialytic weight gain following ramping was 5.1% of body weight compared with 4.4% without ramping (P < 0.0001). Blood pressure also increased following ramping, from 143/79 mm Hg to 152/81 mm Hg (P = 0.001). Ramping can decrease the overall number of side effects, but increases interdialytic symptoms, weight gain, and hypertension. In most instances, it simply changes the time the side effects occur. Only 22% of patients have significant benefit. These patients can be identified only through trial and error, as no model of these patients can be created.