Review Articles: Inflammation in End-stage Renal Disease: Sources, Consequences, and Therapy


Address correspondence to: Peter Stenvinkel, MD, Department of Renal Medicine K56, Huddinge University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, 141 86 Stockholm, Sweden. e-mail:


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the main cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Although traditional risk factors are common in ESRD patients, they alone may not be sufficient to account for the high prevalence of CVD in this condition. Recent evidence demonstrates that chronic inflammation, a nontraditional risk factor which is commonly observed in ESRD patients, may cause malnutrition and progressive atherosclerotic CVD by several pathogenetic mechanisms. The causes of inflammation in ESRD are multifactorial and, while it may reflect underlying CVD, an acute-phase reaction may also be a direct cause of vascular injury by several pathogenetic mechanisms. Available data suggest that proinflammatory cytokines play a central role in the genesis of both malnutrition and CVD in ESRD. Thus it could be speculated that suppression of the vicious cycle of malnutrition, inflammation, and atherosclerosis (MIA syndrome) would improve survival in dialysis patients. Recent evidence has demonstrated strong associations between inflammation and both increased oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction in ESRD patients. As there is not yet any recognized, or even proposed, treatment for ESRD patients with chronic inflammation, it would be of obvious interest to study the long-term effect of various anti-inflammatory treatment strategies on the nutritional and cardiovascular status as well as outcome in these patients.