Background: Patients on haemodialysis (HD) have high rates of cardiovascular (CV) disease and activation of the complement system. Despite evidence in non-renal patients that these may be linked, this association has received little attention in HD patients to date. In the setting of a randomised controlled trial we evaluated the relationships between baseline complement levels and subsequent CV events and mortality, in addition to the effects of HD with a vitamin E (VE)-coated dialysis membrane on circulating complement levels. Methods: A total of 260 HD patients were randomised to dialysis with a VE-coated dialysis membrane or non-VE coated equivalent for 12 months. Blood samples were taken at baseline, 6 and 12 months for measurement of C3, factor D, factor H and SC5b-9 levels. Data were collected prospectively on deaths and CV events. Results: Higher C3 levels at baseline were associated with subsequent CV events (hazard ratio 1.20 (1.01-1.42) per 0.1 mg/ml). Patients with intermediate SC5b-9 levels had significantly lower CV event rates and mortality than those with either high or low levels (p < 0.01). There were no effects of the VE-membranes on the complement components measured nor the clinical endpoints considered. Conclusions: The levels of C3 and SC5b-9 may have prognostic utility for predicting future CV events and/or mortality in HD patients - a relationship that requires further investigation. Dialysing prevalent HD patients with VE-bonded polysulfone membranes for a period of 12 months did not alter the circulating levels of the alternative complement pathway components considered here.

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