The majority of hemodialysis patients die from cardiovascular disease. However, the contribution of myocardial infarction to mortality is relatively minor, despite the fact that coronary artery disease is common in uremic patients. Hypertension seems to be the major risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis in hemodialysis patients, although abnormalities of the lipid spectrum, characterized by an increase in triglycerides and very low density lipoprotein levels and a decrease in high-density lipoprotein levels, are frequent in hemodialysis patients. The existence of left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy is a serious risk factor for morbidity and mortality in hemodialysis patients. LV hypertrophy can present as a dilated cardiomyopathy or as concentric or asymmetric septal hypertrophy. Loss of myocardial contractility by coronary artery disease or carnitine deficiency can lead to systolic LV dysfunction with a compensatory dilated cardiomyopathy. Furthermore, the presence of a hypercirculation in uremic patients, resulting from anemia, the arteriovenous fistula, or fluid overload, can also lead to a dilated cardiomyopathy. Systolic LV dysfunction occurs when the increase in LV wall thickness is inadequate for the increase in LV radius, which might be caused by increased levels of parathyroid hormone. LV diastolic dysfunction, resulting from an increase in LV mass due to the effects of hypertension or to uremic interstitial fibrosis, can both lead to pulmonary edema and hypotensive periods during hemodialysis and is a severe risk factor for mortality in hemodialysis patients. Therefore, in uremic patients, anemia should be corrected and hypertension adequately treated early in the development of renal failure. Chronic fluid overload should be prevented by adequate estimation of optimal dry weight. Whether normalization of the lipid profile will prevent atherogenesis is dubious. In patients with LV dysfunction, rapid changes in plasma volume should be avoided.
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