Hemolysis as a rare but potentially life-threatening complication of hemodialysis: A case report

Jenni Yoon, Sritika Thapa, Robert Dobbin Chow, Bernard G. Jaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: The burden of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the United States has increased dramatically over the past 30 years with almost 613,000 patients receiving renal replacement therapy in 2011. That same year, more than 112,000 new patients initiated dialysis with 92% of them receiving hemodialysis (HD). These patients experience significant morbidity and mortality with very frequent emergency room visits. Acute hemolysis associated with HD is a rare complication; however, if it's not recognized early and managed adequately, it can be associated with life-threatening complications such as hyperkalemia and even myocardial infarction. Case presentation. 66-year-old African-American female with a history of ESRD secondary to hypertension developed a blood infiltration on the arterial side of her arteriovenous fistula followed by sudden onset of diffuse abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting during her regular HD treatment. She was referred to the emergency department where she was found to have shortness of breath with improved gastrointestinal symptoms. Her initial work-up revealed a severe anemia with a hematocrit of 10%. Further work-up revealed massive hemolysis, likely mechanical in nature and believed to be induced by malpositioning of her HD needle in the fistula. Her hospital course was complicated by rhabdomyolysis and acute myocardial infarction thought to be secondary to supply-demand ischemia in the setting of her profound anemia. Within a week, she eventually had a full recovery. Conclusion: It is extremely important for physicians and particularly emergency department physicians to be aware of this potentially life-threatening complication of HD and have a high index of suspicion in the setting of acute anemia with hemolysis in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number475
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 28 2014


  • Anemia
  • Complications
  • Hemodialysis
  • Hemolysis
  • Hyperkalemia
  • Myocardial infarction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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