Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the leading cardiovascular cause of death for dialysis patients, researchers reported in Kidney International (2008; published online ahead of print).

The prospective 10-year study, led by Rulan S. Parekh, MD, associate professor in the department of nephrology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, based the findings on a study of 1,041 dialysis patients, of whom 658 died. Over a median 2.5 years of follow-up, 146 patients (22%) suffered SCD.

Patients with the highest levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein or interleukin-6—markers of systemic inflammation—were twice as likely to die from SCD as those with the lowest levels. Dr. Parekh’s group also looked at the effect of low albumin levels—a marker of malnutrition—and found that patients with the lowest albumin levels were 35% more likely to die from SCD compared with those who had the highest levels.

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“This is believed to be the first time anyone has taken a rigorous prospective look at why so many patients on dialysis die from sudden cardiac death. The results could help doctors identify those at highest risk and potentially save lives,” Dr. Parekh said.