Atrial Fibrillation Patients At Risk During Dialysis

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A recent study published in the medical journal Heart found that atrial fibrillation (AF) patients who receive regular dialysis treatment have more episodes of irregular heartbeat on dialysis days. The study also shows that irregular heartbeats for AF patients occur more often during the dialysis treatment.

Dialysis and Atrial Fibrillation

Irregular heartbeat of Atrial Fibrillation patient.

Several hospitals in the Netherlands studied 40 dialysis patients enrolled in the implantable cardioverter defibrillator-2 (ICD-2) trial. An ICD is an electronic device implanted inside the chest that constantly monitors heart rate and rhythm. Whenever the heart begins to beat irregularly, the ICD delivers energy to the heart muscle, bringing it back into a normal rhythm. Because all 40 dialysis patients had such devices, researchers were able to look at heart rhythm data during dialysis.

During a 28-month follow up period, the ICD-2 devices detected a total of 428 AF episodes in 14 different patients. Analysis found that AF occurred more frequently on days when the patient was receiving hemodialysis, especially during the dialysis procedure. Dialysis technicians are often required to monitor the vital signs of a patient before, during, and after dialysis. They attend dialysis technician school to learn how to do this.

The authors of the study wrote, “This study provides insight in the exact timing of AF onset in relation to the dialysis procedure itself. Researchers hope to use the study results to identify further areas of investigation. One key factor is how poor kidney function causes the need for hemodialysis and is also an independent factor in AF. “These findings might help to elucidate some aspects of the pathophysiology of AF in dialysis patients and could facilitate early detection of AF in these high-risk patients.”

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