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Clinical and Para-Clinical Findings of COVID19 in Hemodialysis Patients Compared to Control Group: A Case-Control Study


avatar Elham Shahreki ORCID 1 , * , avatar AliReza Ansari-Moghaddam ORCID 2 , avatar Roya Alavi Naini ORCID 3 , avatar Maryam Keikha 4 , avatar Ramin Bazi 5 , avatar Ahmad Reza Shahraki 6

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Nephrology, Ali Ibne Abitaleb Hospital, Zahedan University of Medical Sciences, Zahedan, Iran

2 Health Promotion Research Center, Zahedan University of Medical Sciences, Zahedan, Iran

3 Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Research Center, Resistant Tuberculosis Institute, Zahedan University of Medical Sciences, Zahedan, Iran

4 Department of Radiology, Children and Adolescents Health Research Center Zahedan University of Medical Sciences, Zahedan, Iran

5 School of Medicine, Zahedan University of Medical Sciences, Zahedan, Iran

6 Department of Surgery, Zahedan University of Medical Sciences, Zahedan, Iran

How to Cite: Shahreki E, Ansari-Moghaddam A, Alavi Naini R, Keikha M, Bazi R, et al. Clinical and Para-Clinical Findings of COVID19 in Hemodialysis Patients Compared to Control Group: A Case-Control Study. Nephro-Urol Mon. 2022;14(2):e122095.
doi: 10.5812/numonthly-122095.


Nephro-Urology Monthly: 14 (2); e122095
Published Online: May 11, 2022
Article Type: Research Article
Received: December 22, 2021
Accepted: February 17, 2022



Following the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in different communities, hemodialysis patients have not been spared by this viral infection.


This study evaluated the clinical symptoms laboratory and imaging findings in patients undergoing hemodialysis and compared these characteristics with the control group.


The study was performed on 72 patients with positive COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test, of whom 36 cases had end-stage renal disease undergoing hemodialysis and the remaining had no history of kidney diseases. After matching the two groups in terms of age, sex, and other underlying diseases, the clinical, laboratory, and chest computed tomography (CT) scan findings were compared between the case and control groups.


The mean age of dialysis patients was 42.52 ± 12.10 years and 48.58 ± 17.35 years in the control group. The study results revealed that hemodialysis patients had less fever, cough, and shortness of breath than the control group (P-value < 0.05). Hemoglobin, lymphocyte, and platelet counts were significantly lower in hemodialysis patients in comparison to the control group (P-value < 0.05). C-reactive protein was significantly higher in patients undergoing hemodialysis (P-value = 0.01), and ground-glass opacification was observed more in patients undergoing hemodialysis compared to controls, but this difference was not statically significant (P = 0.07).


Hemodialysis patients had fewer initial clinical symptoms but more abnormalities in laboratory findings and ground-glass opacities on chest CT scans and a higher mortality rate.

1. Background

Following the increased cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China, in December 31, 2019, a novel coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)) was identified as the cause of the disease, which has spread rapidly throughout the world (1). SARS-CoV-2 infection was responsible for the disease that was known and named by World Health Organization (WHO) as COVID-19 (2). Until march 31, 2021, a number of 128,104,216 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported worldwide (3). The number of confirmed patients and deaths in Iran were 1875234 and 62569, respectively (4). The severity of the disease ranges from mild to moderate in approximately 80% of infected patients, and severe and critical conditions are seen in around 20% of the remaining cases. Patients’ clinical manifestations might vary from asymptomatic to patients with symptoms and signs of fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, shortness of breath, and even respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in severe forms of the disease have been reported (5, 6). Severe cases were mostly patients with shortness of breath, respiratory rate (RR) over 30/min, resting blood oxygen saturation less than 93%, and PaO2/FiO2 less than 300 mmHg. When radiographic findings of pneumonia show progression in more than 50% of chest CT scans during 24 - 28 h, it is also considered a severe form of the disease. Critical cases had dyspnea with the necessity for mechanical ventilation, shock, multiple organ failure, and they always required ICU care. The most common chest CT scan findings in COVID-19 include patchy ground-glass opacities (GGOs), consolidations, interlobular septal thickening, crazy paving appearance, fibrotic streaks, and strip-like opacities (7). Comorbidities, like chronic kidney disease (CKD), diabetes mellitus, and hypertension are associated with the severe form of the disease, and CKD increases mortality in COVID-19 patients (8). The immune deficiency associated with CKD makes these patients prone to this highly contagious disease (2, 6, 9). Therefore, they are at higher risk of severe disease and higher mortality (9, 10).

In a study conducted in Spain, mortality was higher than 30% of the general population, and the patients had less fever, weakness, lethargy, and cough (10). Imaging and symptoms of these patients might be different from the general population. Due to the fact that hemodialysis patients are older and they almost always have an underlying disease, they are more likely to be infected, and subsequently, they could be a source for spreading the virus in the community (5).

2. Objectives

This study aimed to determine the clinical and para-clinical findings in hemodialysis patients and compare these characteristics to patients without a history of kidney disease.

3. Methods

3.1. Study Population and Design

This was a case-control, internal multicenter study conducted on 72 COVID-19 patients confirmed by oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal polymerase chain reaction testing. We collected data from three hospitals affiliated with the Zahedan University of Medical Sciences (ZUMS), south-eastern Iran (Boo Ali Hospital, Ali Ibne Abitaleb Hospital, and Khatam Hospital) from February 2020 to December 2020. The study was approved by the ZUMS ethics committee (IR.ZAUMS.REC.1399.145). During this period, 36 end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients had the inclusion criteria. During the same period, patients without renal insufficiency who were matched in age and sex and had the underlying disease were included in the study as a control group.

Thirty-six ESRD patients older than 18 years with COVID-19 under hemodialysis (HD) were compared to 36 patients without any history of renal diseases. Patients in the case group were on HD for at least three months prior to admission. Patients in the control group had no history of kidney disease with a glomerular filtration rate of more than 90 percent. The cases and controls were matched according to age, sex, and other underlying diseases. To confirm COVID-19, nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swab testing was performed for all patients using SARS-COV-2 real-time reverse transcriptase PCR. Data, including demographic findings, history of comorbidity diseases, vital signs, and oxygen saturation, as well as laboratory tests, such as hemoglobin and white blood cell, lymphocyte, and platelet counts, were collected from the patients’ medical files.

All the clinical, laboratory and low-dose high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scan findings were registered in the information forms.

All the cases and controls were evaluated at the time of discharge and two weeks later, and the data from their clinical findings were collected as well.

3.2. Statistical Analysis

Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data, and results were reported as means and standard deviations. The categorical variables were summarized as numbers and percentages. We conducted comparisons of baseline characteristics, symptoms, laboratory findings, and CT findings between the two groups using a t-test for continuous variables and a Chi-square test or Fisher’s exact test for binary and categorical variables. Statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS v.16 software, and p-values smaller than 0.05 were considered statistically significant.

4. Results

The results of the study showed that the mean age of HD patients and the control group was 42.52 ± 12.10 and 48.58 ± 17.35 years, respectively. In both the case and control groups, 25 (69.4%) patients were male, and the remaining were female. The number and percentage of underlying diseases, including diabetes mellitus, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, pulmonary and rheumatologic diseases, as well as the number of patients using statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers in both the case and control groups are demonstrated in Table 1. Charlson’s comorbidity index in HD patients and controls was 6. As shown in Table 1, there was not a significant difference between the control and HD groups regarding the mentioned factors (Table 1).

Table 1. Baseline Characteristics of the Patients with COVID-19 in the Case and Control Groups a
Variables HD Group (n = 36)Control Group (n = 36)P-Value
Age42.52 ± 12.1048.58 ± 17.350.42
Male 25 (69.4)25 (69.4)0.61
Charlson comorbidity index6 (2-9)6 (0-9)
Diabetes mellitus17 (47.2)19 (52.7)0.55
HTN28 (77.8)26 (72.2)0.65
IHD29 (80.5)24 (66.6)0.12
Lung disease2 (5.5)5 (13.8)0.065
Malignancy 03 (8.3)0.057
Rheumatologic disease1 (2.8)2 (5.5)0.246
Statin use15 (41.6)17 (47.2)0.32
ACEis or ARBs use28 (77.8)24 (66.6)0.85

Abbreviations: IHD, ischemic heart disease; HTN, hypertension; ACEis, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors; ARB, angiotensin-receptor blockers

a Values are expressed as mean ± SD or No. (%).

Fever was detected in 32 patients in the control group and only 19 cases on HD. Cough and dyspnea were observed in 23 and 24 HD patients and in 36 and 34 patients in the control group, respectively (P < 0.05) (Table 2). There was no statistical difference for other clinical findings, like sore throat, myalgia, anosmia, and vomiting.

Table 2. Baseline Clinical Presentation and Laboratory Data of Patients with COVID-19 in the Case and Control Groups
Clinical PresentationHD Group (n = 36)Control Group (n = 36)P-Value
Cough 23 (63.8)36 (100) < 0.001
Fever 19 (52.7)32 (88.8) < 0.001
Dyspnea24 (66.6)34 (94.4) < 0.001
Sore throat20 (55.5)23 (63.8)P > 0.05
Vomiting5 (13.8)6 (16.6)P > 0.05
Myalgia 15 (41.6)17 (47.2)P > 0.05
Anosmia 4 (11.1)5 (13.8)P > 0.05
Respiratory rate (in min)18.9 ± 6.119.1 ± 6.2P > 0.05
Oxygen saturation (%)85 ± 9.787 ± 9.1P > 0.05
Hemoglobin (g/L)9.1 ± 2.312.4 ± 2.5P > 0.05
WBC count6.1 ± 4.27.5 ± 4.8P > 0.05
Lymphocyte2.1 ± 1.83.4 ± 2.3P > 0.05
CRP48 ± 15.831 ± 14.6P > 0.05
Platelets count98 ± 25.2130 ± 28.1P > 0.05

Abbreviations: WBC, white blood cell; CRP, C-reactive protein

Respiratory rate and oxygen saturation were approximately the same in both groups at the time of admission. Hemoglobin, lymphocyte count, platelets count were significantly lower in HD patients, and CRP was significantly higher in this group compared to controls (P = ??) (Table 2).

In lung HRCT scan, dilated vessel and emphysema were found only in the two cases, and there was a significant difference between the groups in ground-glass opacification, and although it was more in HD patients, this difference was not statistically significant. Consolidation, diffuse pattern, pleural and pericardial effusion, and airway dilation were more observed in lung HRCT scans of HD patients. Central pattern and emphysema were more frequent in the control group than in HD patients (Table 3).

Table 3. Radiologic Findings of the Patients
Radiologic FindingHD GroupControl GroupP-Value
Ground glass opacification21 (58.3)14 (38.8)0.07
Consolidation 9 (25)7 (19.4)0.38
Reticular pattern6 (16.6)6 (16.6)0.62
Mixed pattern14 (38.8)18 (50)0.23
Anterior2 (5.5)2 (5.5)0.31
Posterior5 (13.8)9 (25)0.25
Diffuse29 (80)25 (69.4)0.15
Bilateral32 (88.8)34 (94.4)0.30
Unilateral 4 (11.1)2 (5.5)0.40
Central7 (19.4)12 (33.3)0.07
Peripheral29 (80)24 (66.6)0.31
Pleural effusion‎16 (44.4)9 (25)0.065
Pericardial effusion13 (36.1)6 (16.6)0.052
Emphysema09 (25)0.001
Bronchiectasis1 (2.7)00.50
Broncowall thickening1 (2.7)1 (2.7)0.75
Crazy paving pattern9 (25)10 (27.7)0.50
Reversed halo sign 4 (11.1)1 (2.7)0.17
Dilated vessel28 (77.7)18 (50)0.009
Airway dilation 11 (30.5)7 (19.4)0.20
Air bronchogram1 (2.7)00.24
Cavitation 2 (13.8)00.24
Interseptal Thickening23 (63.8)23 (63.8)0.60
Cyst 1 (2.7)00.50
Lymphadenopathy 3 (8.3)00.11
Cardiomegaly 29 (80.5)28 (77.7)0.50
Nodule 17 (47.2)11 (30.5)0.10
Subpelural band24 (66.6)25 (69.4)0.50
Upper zone score2.0 ± 1.52.9 ± 1.10.44
Middle zone score7.2 ± 3.46.1 ± 3.60.43
Lower zone score12.4 ± 5.19.4 ± 4.10.28
Total score15.58 ± 11.113.46 ± 10.80.18

During the course of the disease, out of 36 HD patients, four patients were intubated, and these four patients died (11.1 %). Out of 36 patients in the control group, three required intubation, and two died (5.5%).

5. Discussion

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, several studies have been conducted on the prevalence and severity of the disease and the causes that exacerbate the disease. Comorbidities, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease, lead to more severe disease (11). Due to the immune system dysfunction in patients with ESRD and using the same place to perform HD, these patients are at higher risk of the severe form of the disease (12). In our study, which was done in Zahedan, Sistan, and Baluchestan province, located in south-eastern Iran, both the control and hemodialysis groups were matched based on their age, sex, and comorbidity (Charlson comorbidity index). Both groups were similar in terms of diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease (IHD), lung disease, malignancy, rheumatologic diseases, hypertension, and statin use. Similar to other studies, the common presenting symptoms in our study were cough, fever, and dyspnea in all the patients (9, 13). However, fever, cough, and dyspnea were more prominent in patients without a history of renal impairment than HD patients, which is similar to Collado et al.’s findings (14). This can be due to the immunodeficiency of these patients (15). Compared to the general population, the number of T cells was lower in HD patients. Likewise, serum levels of inflammatory cytokines in these patients with COVID-19 infection were relatively low compared to non-HD patients (12). This causes fewer symptoms, such as fever and cytokine storm in these patients (12, 15). In our study, HD patients had lower hemoglobin, platelets, and lymphocytes and higher CRP than the control group. This can be due to underlying anemia and low platelets in these patients. Also, an inflammatory condition due to dialysis technique causes a high level of baseline CRP in HD patients (16).

In our study, the common finding in HRCT was intercepted thickening, GGO, and mixed pattern with diffuse involvement, and the other findings were cardiomegaly and dilated vessel, in line with other studies (9, 11). GGO was the most common finding in both groups and was more common in HD groups, but this difference was not statically significant. Dilation of vessels was more common in HD patients. Pleural effusion was significantly (P < 0.05) higher in the HD group. In addition to the dilated vessel, it may be caused by cardiac involvement and congestive heart disease in HD patients with COVID-19 (17, 18).

The causes of death in HD patients were cardiac arrest, septic shock, and hyperkalemia, and in the control group, it was cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. Mortality in the HD group (11.1%) was higher than in the control group (5.5%); however, they had fewer initial symptoms. HD mortality in this study was lower than that reported by Kazmi et al. in Pakistan (25.6%) (19) and also Turgutalp et al. in Turkey (16.3%). (18). This could result in the faster diagnosis of patients as well as faster treatment; however, fewer samples can be effective.

Other studies have reported similar results (7). We selected two similar groups for other comorbidities to better determine the effect of dialysis and renal disease and showed that despite the presence of other underlying diseases, except kidney disease in patients, mortality is still higher in HD patients. In another study, Li et al. reported that higher creatinine was associated with higher mortality (20).

In line with another study (18), higher pulmonary and diffuse, and bilateral involvements were associated with higher mortality.

5.1. Conclusions

The results of this study showed that ESRD is an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19. Mortality due to COVID-19 is higher in HD patients.


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