Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Staten Island University Hospital, Staten Island, NY, USA.
Erythropoietin is a hormone that regulates erythropoiesis and is mainly produced by the kidneys. Several animal studies as well as a few case reports and case series have demonstrated that regenerating hepatic tissue can produce more erythropoietin than normal hepatic tissue. The purpose of the study was to examine the difference in hemoglobin and hematocrit levels as well as epoetin dosage in patients on hemodialysis with and without hepatitis C (HCV).
A retrospective chart review was performed. Seventy-six patients were included in the study (19 with HCV and 57 without HCV) at a ratio of 1:3. Exclusion criteria were a history of gastrointestinal bleeding or blood transfusion over the previous six months, polycystic kidney disease, and pregnancy. Variables examined included gender, age, duration of hemodialysis, hemoglobin, hematocrit, epoetin dose, aspartate transaminase, and ferritin levels over a three-month period.
The patients were divided into two groups. The first consisted of patients with HCV on hemodialysis and the second of patients on hemodialysis without HCV. Mean hemoglobin was 12.6 ± 1.2 g/dL for the HCV-positive group and 11.9 ± 1.1 g/dL for the HCV-negative group. The difference was statistically significant (P = 0.03). Mean hematocrit was higher in the HCV-positive group, but was not significantly different at 39.08% ± 4.06% versus 37.43% ± 3.4% in the HCV-negative group (t-test, P = 0.11). Further, the HCV-positive group required less epoetin, but this was not significantly different from that required in the HCV-negative group at 6258 ± 5208 IU versus 7596 ± 7056 IU, respectively (t-test, P = 0.38).
In our study, patients with HCV infection were found to have higher hemoglobin and hematocrit levels and lower epoetin requirements than those without HCV. Although the findings were not statistically significant, the computed values between these two groups of patients did follow a general trend. Further investigation with more patients, a longer duration of follow-up, and incorporation of additional medical variables is needed to clarify the role of HCV on erythropoiesis in hemodialysis patients.