Researchers Evaluate Heart Health During Dialysis Treatment

Even when you carefully monitor your diet and keep your dialysis appointments, kidney failure can still take a toll on your body. You need dialysis treatments to remove waste and excessive fluid. But the process also causes a drop in blood pressure and limits blood flow to the heart.

While dialysis does the work your kidneys can’t, it also damages the heart over time. Just how much damage varies from patient to patient.

In order for a doctor to evaluate your heart health, an electrocardiogram (EKG) or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be needed. That means more wait time, travel, and cost to get to another doctor’s appointment. But that may change based on a small study where researchers combined dialysis treatment and a cardiac MRI.

Researchers in the United Kingdom were able to provide 12 patients routine dialysis treatment and perform a cardiac MRI at the same time. It required modifications to make sure the MRI equipment and dialysis equipment functioned properly together. And it worked.

“Using this unique set-up, we were able to monitor multiple cardiovascular measurements while dialysis was taking place in the patients,” says lead researcher Dr. Maarten Taal.

This small study shows that it’s possible to provide dialysis and evaluate heart health at the same time. But the set-up will likely require further testing and modifications before it’s widely used by nephrology doctors.

Until then, you can protect your health and your heart by following a Dialysis-Friendly diet, taking medications, following doctor’s recommendations, and making healthy lifestyle choices such as these ten tips below, from the National Kidney Foundation:

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control
  • Keep calcium and phosphorus in balance
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control
  • If you have anemia, get treatment for it
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce stress
  • Maintain a healthy weight