Dr. Dinna Cruz and colleagues of San Bartolo Hospital in Vicenza, Italy, analysed the outcomes of 172 patients in Italian dialysis centres who were switched from "regular" dialysis filters to new filters coated with vitamin E. "Vitamin E has long been known for its antioxidant properties, but oral vitamin E has not been helpful in treating dialysis-related anaemia, or low red blood cell count," Cruz explains. "We hoped that these newly invented vitamin E-containing dialysis filters would have some antioxidant properties - scavenging free radicals that may cause damage to cells in the body, including red blood cells."

The patients' red blood cell counts levels increased significantly after the switch to vitamin E-coated filters and remained increased throughout the one-year study. By the end of the year, the percentage of haemodialysis patients who were at target red blood cell counts - that is, without anaemia - had increased from about 50 to 80 percent.

The patients also had a significant reduction in their required dose of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO). Normally produced by the kidneys, EPO fights anaemia by inducing the bone marrow to make red blood cells and prolonging the life span of existing red blood cells. By the end of the study year, the average dose of synthetic EPO had decreased by about 23 percent, especially important considering the high cost of EPO treatment.

"We were gratified to see that the use of newer vitamin E-coated filters, which were designed to reduce oxidative stress, had visible clinical benefits," Cruz concludes. With further research, vitamin E-coated filters could become a simple and practical way of reducing a common and important complication of haemodialysis, Cruz hopes.

MEDICA.de; Source: American Society of Nephrology (ASN)