Background. It has been estimated that 30-50% of adult haemodialysis patients have moderate to severe malnutrition. We have previously shown that estimation of total body nitrogen, expressed as a nitrogen index (NI) by in vivo neutron activation analysis (IVNAA) is an accurate tool for estimating total body protein in dialysis patients. It is not clear whether the nitrogen index is predictive of mortality and morbidity in dialysis patients. Methods. We studied the long-term predictive value of nutritional assessment by IVNAA and serum albumin on mortality and morbidity (including infection episodes requiring hospital admission, ischaemic heart disease (IHD), cerebrovascular or peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Seventy-six chronic haemodialysis patients were initially studied between 1989 and 1991, with a minimum follow-up of 5 years. The mean age of the patients was 48.3 years (range 21-76). Patients were divided into two groups, group I, n = 22, had a NI ≤ 0.8 (NI ≤ 0.8 represents protein malnutrition) and group II, n = 54, had a NI > 0.8. Results. Fifteen patients in group II died in the followup period compared to nine from group I (P < 0.05), but NI ≤ 0.8 did not predict vascular or infective morbidity. Serum albumin ≤ 35 g/day did predict over all mortality (P < 0.05) as well as infection episodes (P < 0.001). When patients above the age of 50 years were analysed, NI did predict mortality (P < 0.05) but serum albumin did not, while the age of > 50 itself was a strong predictor of mortality (P < 0.001). Conclusion. We conclude that NI ≤ 0.8 is predictive of long-term mortality. This reinforces the view that low body protein stores are predictive of increased mortality in dialysis patients and that the serum albumin is predictive of mortality because of its reflection of protein stores.
- Total body nitrogen