Chronic kidney disease is characterized by a slow, but progressive loss of kidney function lasting months to years. There are no obvious specific symptoms as the diminished renal activity affects all body functions and, although there are many causes of this disease, it is often caused by high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus or a combination of the two. The diagnosis is normally established when changes in laboratory checkup tests are found or when complications occur. Regardless of how advanced or serious the compromise of kidney function is, the leading cause of death of patients with this disease is cardiovascular complications, including heart attacks.
Electrocardiograms (ECG) record the electrical activity of the heart and are used to diagnose several heart conditions including heart attacks. Although ECG is not warranted for healthy individuals, a team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania investigated the potential use of this exam as a screening to predict death as a consequence of cardiovascular complications.
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Lead author Dr. Rajat Deo and colleagues followed 3,587 patients over a mean of 7,5 years to find if changes in some common ECG measures could be used to predict individuals with high risk of death by cardiovascular disease.
Their results show that these measures were significantly altered in patients who died from cardiovascular disease compared to other chronic kidney disease patients. As such, these measures can be used to improve the ability of doctors to predict which patients with chronic kidney disease are at higher risk of cardiovascular death and should be closely monitored.
Furthermore, in the future there might be novel therapies that could be used in these high risk subjects to decrease the emergence of cardiovascular complications and lower mortality.