1. Twelve patients receiving haemodialysis for end-stage renal failure were studied at a single dialysis session. Platelet cytosolic calcium concentration, plasma ionized calcium concentration and serum parathyroid hormone concentration were measured before dialysis, mid-dialysis and 30 min after dialysis.
2. Plasma ionized calcium concentration increased towards dialysate calcium concentrations, falling insignificantly after cessation of dialysis. Serum parathyroid hormone concentration fell by 39% during dialysis, with incomplete recovery afterwards. There was no overall change in platelet cytosolic calcium concentration.
3. Patients were divided into two subgroups: low parathyroid hormone (serum parathyroid hormone concentration < 10 pmol/l) and high parathyroid hormone (serum parathyroid hormone concentration > 10 pmol/l). Before dialysis, values of platelet cytosolic calcium concentration or plasma ionized calcium concentration were not statistically different between the subgroups, but the platelet cytosolic calcium concentration was higher in the high-parathyroid hormone subgroup during and after dialysis.
4. Before haemodialysis there was a linear correlation between plasma ionized calcium concentration and platelet cytosolic calcium concentration, which disappeared during dialysis. In contrast, there was no relationship between serum parathyroid hormone concentration and platelet cytosolic calcium concentration before dialysis, but after dialysis a hyperbolic relationship was evident.
5. These results suggest that uraemic toxins may interfere with cytosolic calcium homoeostasis, allowing passive diffusion of extracellular calcium to influence the resting concentration, and that this effect is reversible by haemodialysis.