Researchers from Mayo clinic had attributed the rising rates of mortality in kidney failure patients undergoing hemodialysis to increased levels of heparin antibodies in their bodies.
Their study in the August issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings is a preliminary look at one aspect affecting the health of patients who undergo hemodialysis. In the study, they found patients who had a higher level of adverse outcomes also had elevated levels of heparin antibodies in their blood. The authors believe this is the first study examining this association.
However, the researchers caution that these results are preliminary.
Heparin is an anticoagulant, which is usually used to prevent the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels that can prove harmful.
For patients with end-stage renal disease (kidney failure), hemodialysis is the most common form of therapy. Recent figures show more than 85 percent of the approximately 379,000 patients with the disease was treated this way. In hemodialysis, the patient's blood is passed through a machine to clean it, similar to what the kidneys might do if the body was functioning normally. Heparin must be used to prevent clotting of the blood in the dialysis machine in order to safely perform hemodialysis. At this time, there are no other widely used alternatives to heparin. The results of this analysis, if confirmed by others, might stimulate the search for better anticoagulants that can be used in hemodialysis.
The study found that the presence of heparin antibodies in hemodialysis patients was associated with more adverse outcomes compared with hemodialysis patients without detectable antibodies. If others confirm the findings, physicians might test for the presence of these antibodies to determine if a patient might be at an above-average risk for complications.