In a multicenter study including 5 dialysis units, blood acetate changes during 4 h dialysis sessions in 141 patients treated with a 4 mM acetate-containing bicarbonate dialysate (ABD) were evaluated and compared to the values of 114 patients using an acetate-free bicarbonate dialysate (AFD). Acetate-free bicarbonate dialysate was delivered by a dialysis machine from the mixing with water for dialysis of a 1/26.2 bicarbonate concentrate, and a 1/35 acid-concentrate in which acetic acid was substituted for hydrochloric acid (Soludia, Fourquevaux, France). This new type of dialysate was routinely in use for 3 years on average (range, from 2 to 5 years). All patients fasted before and during dialysis. Blood samples were withdrawn at the start and at the end of dialysis sessions. The acetate plasma concentration was determined using the acetyl-CoA synthetase enzymatic method (Boehringer, Manheim, Germany). In patients treated with ABD whose predialysis blood acetate levels were in the physiologic range of < or = 100 microM (n = 113), the acetate plasma concentration increased from a predialysis mean value of 22+/-3 microM to a postdialysis mean value of 222+/-11 microM in 88 patients (78% of patients) whereas the acetate plasma concentration changes remained in the range of physiologic values from 21+/-6 to 58+/-7 microM in the other 25 patients. In contrast, patients treated with AFD whose predialysis blood acetate levels were in the physiologic range (n = 108), acetate plasma concentration increased from a predialysis mean value of 49+/-6 microM to 160+/-19 microM in only 13 patients (12% of patients) whereas acetate plasma concentration changes remained in the range of physiologic values of 23+/-2 to 41+/-3 microM in most of the patients of this group. In this study, a significant number of patients, whether receiving standard or acetate-free bicarbonate dialysates, exhibited an extremely high acetate plasma concentration at the start of the dialysis session. Hyperacetatemia was controlled with AFD in patients whose predialysis acetate plasma concentration of 316+/-82 decreased to 55 +/-23 microM (n = 6) at the end of the dialysis session whereas the acetate plasma concentration remained high when the predialysis concentration was 580+/-76 microM, with a postdialysis concentration of 233+/-39 microM (n = 28). It is concluded that in patients whose predialysis blood acetate levels were in the physiologic range, acetate-containing bicarbonate dialysate induces hyperacetatemia whereas postdialysis blood acetate remains in the normal range in such dialysis patients treated with acetate-free dialysate. Chronic hyperacetatemia, which could be found in dialysis patients, is well controlled by dialysis using an acetate-free dialysate.