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Nephron Clin Pract. 2003;94(1):c11-8.

Atheroembolic renal failure requiring dialysis: potential for renal recovery? A review of 43 cases.

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Nephrology Division, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada.



Our objectives were to review the characteristics of patients who developed atheroembolic renal disease requiring dialysis as well as their renal function recovery and survival rates.


All cases of atheroembolic disease with renal failure severe enough to require dialysis were reviewed from January 1984 to December 2000 in two centers. The diagnosis of atheroemboli was based on clinical presentation and/or biopsy. Acute renal failure was defined as a serum creatinine >200 micromol/l if normal at baseline or doubling from baseline if chronic renal failure, whereas renal function recovery was the ability to discontinue renal replacement therapy for >or=3 months.


Forty-three cases were identified (37 males and 6 females; mean age 67 +/- 5 years); the average time to acute renal failure and to diagnosis was similar at 36 days. The majority of patients had at least one precipitating factor identified (58% coronary angiography, 26% angiography, 16% vascular surgery, 2% anticoagulation); 1 had a spontaneous presentation whereas 7 had more than one factor. More than 90% had underlying hypertension and chronic renal dysfunction with a baseline creatinine of 195 +/- 81 micromol/l, approximately 80% had coronary artery disease, 80% were smokers, 60% had a history of abdominal aorta aneurysm, >50% presented with intermittent claudication, and 56% were anticoagulated at the time of the event. Most patients were nonoliguric (80%), had increased hypertension (71%), blue toes (67%), livedo reticularis (52%), whereas abdominal pain and central nervous system symptoms were present in 33 and 7% of the cases, respectively. Eosinophilia was found in 88%, while hypocomplementemia was present in less than 15%. When compared to the 12 patients with recovery of renal function (after a mean delay of 409 +/- 336 days), the 31 patients who did not recover function presented with more severe intermittent claudication and underlying chronic renal dysfunction (p < 0.05). Indeed, the only variable found to unfavorably influence renal function recovery was the presence of intermittent claudication. Patients were mainly treated by intermittent hemodialysis except for 5 (2 on CRRT and 3 on peritoneal dialysis). Renal function recovery was associated with a higher chance of survival; 33% of patients died in the first year after diagnosis.


Atheroembolic renal disease carries a high mortality rate reflective of the extensive cardiovascular disease of affected patients; nevertheless, the potential for renal function recovery appears greater than for other vascular causes of renal failure.

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