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Anemia of Renal Disease


Gloria F. Gerber

, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Division of Hematology

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2023

Anemia of renal disease is a hypoproliferative anemia Overview of Decreased Erythropoiesis Anemia, a decrease in the number of red blood cells (RBCs), hemoglobin (Hb) content, or hematocrit (Hct), can result from decreased RBC production (erythropoiesis), increased RBC destruction... read more resulting primarily from deficient erythropoietin (EPO) or a diminished response to it; it tends to be normocytic and normochromic. Treatment includes measures to correct the underlying disorder and supplementation with EPO and sometimes iron.

Anemia in chronic renal disease is multifactorial.

The most common mechanism is

  • Hypoproliferation due to decreased erythropoietin (EPO) production

Other factors include

  • Blood loss due to dysfunctional platelets, dialysis, and/or angiodysplasia

  • Bone marrow resistance to EPO

  • Secondary hyperparathyroidism

  • Uremia (leading to shortened red blood cell [RBC] survival)

The deficiency in renal production of EPO and the severity of anemia do not always correlate with the extent of renal dysfunction; anemia occurs when creatinine clearance is < 45 mL/minute (< 0.75 mL/s/m2). Renal glomerular lesions (eg, due to amyloidosis Amyloidosis Amyloidosis is any of a group of disparate conditions characterized by extracellular deposition of insoluble fibrils composed of misaggregated proteins. These proteins may accumulate locally... read more Amyloidosis , diabetic nephropathy Diabetic Nephropathy Diabetic nephropathy is glomerular sclerosis and fibrosis caused by the metabolic and hemodynamic changes of diabetes mellitus. It manifests as slowly progressive albuminuria with worsening... read more Diabetic Nephropathy ) generally result in the most severe anemia for their degree of renal excretory failure.

General reference

  • 1. Kautz L, Jung G, Valore EV, et al: Identification of erythroferrone as an erythroid regulator of iron metabolism. Nat Genet 46:678–684, 2014. doi: 10.1038/ng.2996

Diagnosis of Anemia of Renal Disease

  • Complete blood count (CBC), reticulocyte count, and peripheral smear

Diagnosis of anemia of renal disease is based on demonstration of renal insufficiency, normocytic anemia, and peripheral reticulocytopenia.

Treatment of Anemia of Renal Disease

  • Treatment of underlying renal disease

  • Sometimes, recombinant erythropoietin and iron supplements

Treatment of anemia of renal disease is directed at

  • Improving renal function

  • Increasing RBC production

If renal function returns to normal, anemia is slowly corrected.

Recombinant EPO improves anemia and reduces transfusion needs in patients with chronic kidney disease and is generally initiated when hemoglobin is < 10 g/dL (< 100 g/dL). In patients receiving long-term dialysis, recombinant erythropoietin (eg, epoetin alfa or darbepoetin alfa) along with iron supplements is the treatment of choice. However, because there is both reduced production of EPO and marrow resistance to EPO, the recombinant EPO dose may need to be higher. The goal is a hemoglobin of 10 to 11.5 g/dL (100 to 115 g/L). Careful monitoring of hemoglobin response is needed because adverse effects (eg, venous thromboembolism Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is clotting of blood in a deep vein of an extremity (usually calf or thigh) or the pelvis. DVT is the primary cause of pulmonary embolism. DVT results from conditions... read more Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) , myocardial infarction Acute Myocardial Infarction (MI) Acute myocardial infarction is myocardial necrosis resulting from acute obstruction of a coronary artery. Symptoms include chest discomfort with or without dyspnea, nausea, and/or diaphoresis... read more Acute Myocardial Infarction (MI) , death) may occur when hemoglobin rises to > 12 to 13 g/dL (> 120 to 130 g/L). Lower doses of EPO are used in patients with chronic kidney disease who are not on dialysis.

In addition, adequate repletion of iron stores is required to ensure an adequate response to recombinant EPO, and concurrent iron supplementation Treatment Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia and usually results from blood loss; malabsorption, such as occurs in celiac disease, is a much less common cause. Symptoms are usually nonspecific... read more Treatment is often needed. The addition of IV iron is considered in patients with hemoglobin < 10 g/dL (< 100 g/L), ferritin ≤ 500 ng/mL (< 500 micrograms/L), and transferrin saturation (TSAT) ≤ 30%.

In almost all cases, maximum increases in RBCs are reached by 8 to 12 weeks.

Hypoxia-inducible factor prolyl hydroxylase (HIF-PH) inhibitors (eg, daprodustat) are an oral option in patients on dialysis. HIF-PH inhibitors increase endogenous erythropoietin levels by preventing HIF degradation. HIF-PH inhibitors appear to produce similar increases in hemoglobin and have similar rates of adverse cardiovascular outcomes to erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (1 Treatment reference Anemia of renal disease is a hypoproliferative anemia resulting primarily from deficient erythropoietin (EPO) or a diminished response to it; it tends to be normocytic and normochromic. Treatment... read more ); however, long-term safety data are lacking.

Treatment reference

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Epogen, Procrit, Retacrit
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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