Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils could protect dialysis patients from sudden cardiac deaths, says a study.
"We found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of patients who were just starting (haemo) dialysis were very strongly associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death over the first year of their treatment," says Allon N. Friedman, associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and study co-author.
"This study is a first step toward identifying a possible treatment for sudden cardiac death in dialysis patients," adds Friedman.
Sudden cardiac death is an unexpected death due to cardiac causes occurring in a short period (generally within one hour of symptom onset) in a person with known or unknown cardiac disease.
The study is based on 100 patients who died of such causes during their first year of haemodialysis, and 300 patients who survived, according to an Indiana statement.
"The risk of sudden cardiac death in haemodialysis patients is highest during the first year of treatment. The annual rate of such deaths is about six to seven percent, which may even exceed the rate in patients with heart failure," Friedman said.
"Because omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from certain foods, such as fish oil, our findings also have important implications for the type of diet we recommend to patients on dialysis," Friedman said.
The five-year survival rate for patients on haemodialysis is 35 percent, with the risk of death highest in the first few months of starting treatment. The most common cause of death in these patients is sudden cardiac death, which accounts for about one out of every four deaths.