New trial could transform heart health of dialysis patients

A new trial with the potential to transform the heart health of patients with kidney failure has today been launched by the University of Leicester, the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Dialysis is a life-saving procedure for people living with kidney failure, removing water and waste products for patients who typically undergo the procedure three times a week at four hours each time. However, the procedure can lead to long-term scarring of the heart, which can accumulate over time and lead to heart failure.

The new NightLife trial will assess the impact of night time dialysis on patients, and whether extending the length of time over which the dialysis takes place could reduce the irreversible damage to their heart, as well as improve patient quality of life and cut costs for the NHS.

Dr Matt Graham-Brown is an honorary consultant nephrologist at the University of Leicester and an NIHR academic clinical lecturer, and is leading the research project. He said:

“Dialysis is a crucial, life-saving procedure for people living with kidney failure, but it can also have a severe impact on their hearts. The procedure is also very burdensome for patients, who must sacrifice a large amount of time and energy to undergo it.

“By extending the length of time over which the dialysis takes place, the removal of water and waste products can be done more slowly, and this may reduce the build-up of scarring in the heart. If we can improve this, then it is likely to improve survival, as statistics show that heart disease is the leading cause of death in people living with kidney failure.

“Importantly this new way of delivering dialysis frees up time for patients during the day, giving them more free time to socialise, work and care for others. Overall, we expect the NightLife trial to influence the way dialysis is delivered for patients to improve quality of life, heart disease and important patient outcomes.”

The study involves 350 patients and will see more than half of these changing their dialysis schedules to six to eight hours, while they sleep, three times a week. The other patients involved will continue to have dialysis during the daytime, with the outcomes of both sets of patients then compared.

And the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have now awarded almost £150,000 of additional funding for the research team to conduct MRI scans to determine if having dialysis for an extended period overnight reduces heart scarring.

Researchers will carry out the scans on both sets of patients at the start and end of the trial, with the funding also ensuring additional blood tests can be carried out on these patients to identify heart and circulatory diseases.