Does this patient have dialysis disequilibrium syndrome?
Symptoms result from brain edema, varying from mild to severe:
Nausea with or without vomiting
Alteration of consciousness
Sudden cardiac arrest
Syndrome is usually mild, transient, and self-limited
Symptoms develop during dialysis, immediately post-dialysis or within 24 hours after completion of dialysis
High serum urea nitrogen level
Aggressive urea removal during the first hemodialysis treatment (decline by more tha 30%)
Pre-existing neurological impairment
Cerebrovascular accident (ischemic or hemorrhage)
Acute subdural hematoma
What tests to perform?
This is a clinical diagnosis.
No gold standard for definitive diagnosis, thus mostly diagnosed by exclusion
Laboratory tests and imaging studies should be ordered to identify other potential causes:
Blood glucose (to exclude hypoglycemia)
Serum calcium (to exclude hypocalcemia or hypercalcemia)
Serum sodium (to exclude hyponatremia)
Head CT scan or brain MRI (to exclude a cerebrovascular accident or subdural hematoma; dialysis disequilibrium syndrome is characterized by diffuse cerebral edema)
How should patients with dialysis disequilibrium syndrome be managed?
Slow, gentle initial hemodialysis session (aim for an, initial urea reduction ratio goal of 30%, which is equivalent to a single pool Kt/V of 0.6):
Dialysis time – 2 hours
Blood flow rate – 200 mL/min
Small surface area (low efficiency) dialyzer
Gradual increase in dialysis efficiency until conventional goal achieved (urea reduction ratio of 65% or single pool Kt/V of 1.2)
High sodium dialysate/sodium profiling
An increase in serum sodium level of 2 mEq/L yields an osmotic force equivalent to a serum urea nitrogen level of approximately 11 mg/dL.
Consider using a fixed dialysate sodium level of 143-146 mEq/L for the initial hemodialysis treatment in high-risk patients
Bicarbonate dialysate (30 mEq/L)
Intra-dialytic administration of osmoticallly active substances
Intravenous 50% dextrose in water (50 mL)
Intravenous mannitol (1gm/kg) (optional)
What happens to patients with dialysis disequilibrium syndrome?
Need for hospitalization
Risk of neurological permanent damage (demyelination of the pontine and extrapontine areas, rare)
Death (in severe form, rare)
How to utilize team care?
1. Specialty consultations – neurologist
2. Nursing – Close monitoring of high-risk patients
Are there clinical practice guidelines to inform decision making?
Limitations – absence of systematic reviews or meta-analyses on this topic
ICD-10-CM diagnosis code E87.8: Other disorders of electrolyte and fluid balance, not elsewhere classified
What is the evidence?
Patel, N, Dalal, P, Panesar, M. “Dialysis disequilibrium syndrome: a narrative review”. Semin Dial. vol. 21. 2008. pp. 493-8.
Zepeda-Orozco, D, Quigley, R. “Dialysis disequilibrium syndrome”. Pediatr Nephrol. vol. 27. 2012 Dec. pp. 2205-11.
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- Does this patient have dialysis disequilibrium syndrome?
- What tests to perform?
- How should patients with dialysis disequilibrium syndrome be managed?
- What happens to patients with dialysis disequilibrium syndrome?
- How to utilize team care?
- Are there clinical practice guidelines to inform decision making?
- Other considerations