Background: End-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients are at a substantially higher risk for developing cognitive impairment compared with the healthy population. Dialysis is an essential way to maintain the life of ESRD patients. Based on previous research, there isn’t an uncontested result whether cognition was improved or worsened during dialysis.
Methods: To explore the impact of dialysis treatment on cognitive performance, we recruited healthy controls (HCs), predialysis ESRD patients (predialysis group), and maintenance hemodialysis ESRD patients (HD group). All ESRD patients performed six blood biochemistry tests (hemoglobin, urea, cystatin C, Na+, K+, and parathyroid hormone). Neuropsychological tests were used to measure cognitive function. By using diffusion tensor imaging and graph-theory approaches, the topological organization of the whole-brain structural network was investigated. Generalized linear models (GLMs) were performed to investigate blood biochemistry predictors of the neuropsychological tests and the results of graph analyses in the HD group and predialysis group.
Results: Neuropsychological analysis showed the HD group exhibited better cognitive function than the predialysis group, but both were worse than HCs. Whole-brain graph analyses revealed that increased global efficiency and normalized shortest path length remained in the predialysis group and HD group than the HCs. Besides, a lower normalized clustering coefficient was found in the predialysis group relative to the HCs and HD group. For the GLM analysis, only the Cystatin C level was significantly associated with the average fiber length of rich club connections in the predialysis group.
Conclusions: Our study revealed that dialysis had a limited effect on cognitive improvement.