Arterial oxygen saturation and hypoxemia in hemodialysis patients with COVID-19

P. Preciado, L.M.T. Silva, X.L. Ye, H.J. Zhang, Y.D. Wang, P. Waguespack, J.P. Kooman, P. Kotanko*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. Maintenance hemodialysis (MHD) patients are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a viral disease that may cause interstitial pneumonia, impaired alveolar gas exchange and hypoxemia. We ascertained the time course of intradialytic arterial oxygen saturation (SaO(2)) in MHD patients between 4 weeks pre-diagnosis and the week post-diagnosis of COVID-19.Methods. We conducted a quality improvement project in confirmed COVID-19 in-center MHD patients from 11 dialysis facilities. In patients with an arterio-venous access, SaO(2) was measured 1 x/min during dialysis using the Crit-Line monitor (Fresenius Medical Care, Waltham, MA, USA). We extracted demographic, clinical, treatment and laboratory data, and COVID-19-related symptoms from the patients' electronic health records.Results. Intradialytic SaO(2) was available in 52 patients (29 males; mean +/- standard deviation age 66.5 +/- 15.7 years) contributing 338 HD treatments. Mean time between onset of symptoms indicative of COVID-19 and diagnosis was 1.1 days (median 0; range 0-9). Prior to COVID-19 diagnosis the rate of HD treatments with hypoxemia, defined as treatment-level average SaO(2) <90%, increased from 2.8% (2-4 weeks pre-diagnosis) to 12.2% (1 week) and 20.7% (3 days pre-diagnosis). Intradialytic O-2 supplementation increased sharply post-diagnosis. Eleven patients died from COVID-19 within 5 weeks. Compared with patients who recovered from COVID-19, demised patients showed a more pronounced decline in SaO(2) prior to COVID-19 diagnosis.Conclusions. In HD patients, hypoxemia may precede the onset of clinical symptoms and the diagnosis of COVID-19. A steep decline of SaO(2) is associated with poor patient outcomes. Measurements of SaO(2) may aid the pre-symptomatic identification of patients with COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1222-1228
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Kidney Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • COVID-19
  • chronic kidney disease
  • hemodialysis
  • hypoxemia
  • oxygen saturation


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