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Study Links New Dialysis Technology to Rise in Bleeding Risk
Date:10/18/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- A seemingly innocuous change in the way that parts of kidney dialysis machines are sterilized may have adverse health consequences, new research suggests.

A recently developed sterilization method called electron beam (e-beam) sterilization may have caused lower levels of platelets in the blood of dialysis patients, according to the study. Platelets help the blood clot. Low levels of platelets, a condition called thrombocytopenia, can lead to excessive bleeding.

The part of the dialysis machine that is sterilized by e-beam sterilization is called the dialyzer. The dialyzer is also sometimes called an artificial kidney. This is the part of the machine that filters the blood.

"Thrombocytopenia is not widely recognized as a potential dialyzer-related complication," wrote the study authors. But, after observing this complication in 20 people following dialysis, the authors wanted to find the cause.

"In this cohort of patients undergoing hemodialysis in two Canadian provinces in 2009-2010, the use of e-beam sterilized dialyzers was associated with significant thrombocytopenia following dialysis," they wrote.

Results of the study are published in the Oct. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Complications related to dialyzers were more common in the 1960s because the material used to make dialyzers was not as biocompatible, or well-tolerated by the human body, as the material used today.

Dialyzers made from newer, more biocompatible substances significantly reduced immunological reactions, so much so that adverse device reactions to dialysis treatments are uncommon today, the authors said.

But, in 2009, it was discovered that a woman undergoing dialysis just before she was scheduled to have a kidney transplant had low levels of platelets following dialysis. Normally, blood is t
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