When Surgery Triggers Kidney Trouble

Acute kidney dysfunction after surgery increased the risks for potentially fatal heart problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The kidneys flush out bodily waste through urine, and are an important barrier against an array of diseases. When the kidneys stop working properly, it can trigger a host of other problems, including ones affecting the heart.

Patients whose kidneys suddenly stopped working properly after surgery were more likely to develop heart problems later on, according to a new study.

That sudden dysfunction is a disorder known as acute kidney injury (AKI), which occurs when the normal, necessary blood flow to the kidneys is interrupted.

"Ask your doctor about ways to promote kidney health."

VinCent Wu, MD, PhD, of National Taiwan University Hospital, was lead author of this study.

Using information from insurance claims filed from 1999 to 2008, Dr. Wu and his team of 12 researchers selected 4,869 patients who had to temporarily go on dialysis after having AKI and recovered from AKI to 4,869 patients who did not have AKI. These researchers compared the two groups.

Based on their findings, these researchers concluded that the risks for developing heart problems or dying from heart-related problems increased 67 percent for patients who needed dialysis to recover from AKI. That was true regardless of whether those patients also developed chronic, or ongoing, kidney disease, which also can harm the heart.

Also, AKI does roughly the same amount of damage to the heart as diabetes, another illness that raises the risk for cardiovascular disease.

These researchers suggested that better treatment and ongoing monitoring of AKI patients after they are released from hospitals could help preserve their heart health.

"These findings indicate that AKI [requiring dialysis and ending in] recovery should be deemed as a risk category for cardiovascular disease, and they shed light on the importance of adequate care for affected patients," Dr. Wu said in a press release.

According to US Renal Data Systems' (USRDS) 2013 report, the risks that AKI patients will develop end stage renal disease (ESRD), which triggers the need for kidney dialysis or a transplant, increased 4 percent in the first year after AKI was diagnosed. Risk of death during the first year after AKI increased 36 percent, according to USRDS.

Regarding this new study by Dr. Wu, Jeffrey Schussler, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center's Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas, told dailyRx News that the research shows that kidney failure " ... affects not only how you do with respect to your kidneys, but it also may affect your cardiovascular system. ... It highlights how our organ systems are intertwined. And when one does poorly, [that] can affect other organs as well."

This new study was published online February 6 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The National Taiwan University Hospital, Taiwan’s National Science Council and National Health Research Institutes funded the study.

Several of the study’s 13 researchers are employed by the university hospital and research institutes. The researchers reported that funding from the science council did not affect study design, analysis or results.

Review Date: 
February 4, 2014
Last Updated:
March 4, 2014