Pregnancy and Dialysis

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A woman with no past medical history was admitted to the ICU service with acute kidney injury secondary to atypical HUS. She was early in pregnancy and we were consulted in order to start dialysis. The management of a pregnant dialysis patient is no simple matter.
About 13-36% of TTP-HUS in women is associated with pregnancy. Pregnancy may be a risk factor for developing TTP-HUS because of hypercoagulability, loss of integral endothelial cell membrane proteins, decreased fibrinolytic activity and ADAMTS13 activity. Among all patients with pregnancy associated TTP-HUS, 8% occurs in the 1st trimester, 16% in the 2nd trimester and 77% in the 3rd trimester or post-partum. 
There are a number of factors to think about in the management of pregnant dialysis patients:
1. Duration and frequency of dialysis:  Pregnant patient usually start on daily dialysis with a predialysis BUN goal of <50mg/dl. It has been shown that patients on nocturnal hemodialysis with an average of 48hours/week have better outcomes than women who dialyzed 20 to 26 hours/week.
2. Anemia:  Pregnant women usually require higher doses of erythropoietin and iron, with goal of Hg>10g/dl, and transferrin saturation>30%. These targets are based more on patients in the general dialysis population and are not evidence based. Pregnant women are usually anemic although their red cell mass increases.
3. Hypophosphatemia: Our daily phosphorous ingestion is 800 to 1600mg. 2.5g to 3.0g phosphorous is removed during a regular 4 hour dialysis treatment. Phosphorous levels will decrease in patients who receive intensive hemodialysis.   Hypophosphatemia can cause tissue hypoxia and intracellular depletion of adenosine triphosphate with impairment of glucose metabolism. In a pregnant patient, our goal is to keep the phosphorous level >3mg/dl with either po repletion or supplemental phosphorous in the dialysate.
4. Calcium: 25 to 30 g of calcium is required for fetal skeletal growth. This demand requires transfer of 140mg/kg/day calcium across the placenta. To prevent osteopenia, it is recommended that an additional 1500mg of calcium be ingested daily during pregnancy.
In conclusion, adequate dialyses, treatment of anemia, maintenance of nutrition and electrolyte stability are the most important factors for a successful pregnancy in chronic dialysis patients. The outcomes of pregnancy in dialysis patients were reviewed in a previous blog post.
Our patient was started on 6 times/week hemodialysis for 4 hours each session.  Her phosphorous level was 2-2.5mg/dl after 1 week on hemodialysis.  With aggressive oral repletion and a regular diet, her phosphorous level was maintained at 3mg/dl upon discharge. 
Posted by Jie Cui


  1. I have been on HD for 10 year and have recently found out I am 4 months pregnant. I am currently 5 day/20 hours a week and see a high risk OB at the University of Wahington. So far everything is good just taking it one day at a time hoping my son is born healthy

  2. Great question. We started daily plasmaphresis and IV steroid during hospitalization. Her plt and LDH responded well to the therapy. There was a big debate in hematology department. Finally, she was also started on eculizumab before discharge.

  3. Nice summary.

    Any comments about plasmapheresis acutely in this patient?


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