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Semin Neurol. 2011 Apr;31(2):139-43. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1277984. Epub 2011 May 17.

Uremic encephalopathy and other brain disorders associated with renal failure.

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  • 1Department of Nephrology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Kidney failure is one of the leading causes of disability and death and one of the most disabling features of kidney failure and dialysis is encephalopathy. This is probably caused by the accumulation of uremic toxins. Other important causes are related to the underlying disorders that cause kidney failure, particularly hypertension. The clinical manifestations of uremic encephalopathy include mild confusional states to deep coma, often with associated movement disorders, such as asterixis. Most nephrologists consider cognitive impairment to be a major indication for the initiation of renal replacement therapy with dialysis with or without subsequent transplantation. Sleep disorders, including Ekbom's syndrome (restless legs syndrome) are also common in patients with kidney failure. Renal replacement therapies are also associated with particular neurologic complications including acute dialysis encephalopathy and chronic dialysis encephalopathy, formerly known as dialysis dementia. The treatments and prevention of each are discussed.

© Thieme Medical Publishers.

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