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Am J Kidney Dis. 2015 Jul;66(1):125-32. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2015.02.322. Epub 2015 Mar 28.

Dialysate and serum potassium in hemodialysis.

Author information

Veterans Administration Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Nashville, TN; Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN. Electronic address:
Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.

Erratum in

  • Am J Kidney Dis. 2015 Nov;66(5):931. Dosage error in article text.


Most patients with end-stage renal disease depend on intermittent hemodialysis to maintain levels of serum potassium and other electrolytes within a normal range. However, one of the challenges has been the safety of using a low-potassium dialysate to achieve that goal, given the concern about the effects that rapid and/or large changes in serum potassium concentrations may have on cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmia. Additionally, in this patient population, there is a high prevalence of structural cardiac changes and ischemic heart disease, making them even more susceptible to acute arrhythmogenic triggers. This concern is highlighted by the knowledge that about two-thirds of all cardiac deaths in dialysis are due to sudden cardiac death and that sudden cardiac death accounts for 25% of the overall death for end-stage renal disease. Developing new approaches and practice standards for potassium removal during dialysis, as well as understanding other modifiable triggers of sudden cardiac death, such as other electrolyte components of the dialysate (magnesium and calcium), rapid ultrafiltration rates, and safety of a number of medications (ie, drugs that prolong the QT interval or use of digoxin), are critical in order to decrease the unacceptably high cardiac mortality experienced by hemodialysis-dependent patients.


Sudden cardiac death; dialysate; hemodialysis; low potassium dialysate; medication safety; review

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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