MRI focuses on heart function of kidney patients receiving dialysis

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom were the first to use MRI to study the heart function of kidney patients while they were receiving dialysis treatment.

Due to the long-term heart damage that regular dialysis treatment can cause, researchers investigated the stress during kidney dialysis and compared standard haemodialysis and hemodiafiltration, “a process that removes more fluid during treatment but with additional replacement fluid being given to the patient.”

Twelve kidney dialysis patients underwent MRI scans by experts from the University Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre (SPMIC) and the Centre for Kidney Research and Innovation (CKRI). All patients were assigned to receive both standard haemodialyis and hemodiafiltration at random.

"Using this unique set-up we were able to monitor multiple cardiovascular measurements while dialysis was taking place in the patients,” said Maarten Taal, a professor at the University of Nottingham, in a statement. “We measured how many litres of blood were pumped per minute by the left ventricle of the heart, how well the heart muscle was able to contract, blood flow in the coronary artery which supplies the heart muscle and myocardial perfusion to check the efficiency of blood flow to the capillaries or tiny blood vessels in the heart muscle."

Data suggests there were significant cardiovascular effects with both types of dialysis; however, there was no difference between the two. The results showed that cardiac MRI can be an important tool for evaluating future improvements to dialysis treatment.

"Interestingly, we found all measures of systolic contractile function fell during both standard haemodialysis and haemodiafiltration with partial recovery after dialysis," Taal said. "All patients showed some degree of left ventricular dysfunction and blood flow to the small capillaries in the heart muscle decreased significantly during both types of treatment. Our observations confirm the need for interventions to reduce the negative impact of dialysis on the heart."

Moving forward, the researchers will continue their studies by testing the effects of other dialysis treatments using MRI.