Chronic renal failure is responsible for an increase in serum concentrations of transthyretin. Elevated serum transthyretin during renal insufficiency is secondary to the lack of retinol-binding protein degradation in renal tubules and to the subsequent increase in the fraction of transthyretin bound to retinol-binding protein. In both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients, serum transthyretin was demonstrated to be a reliable marker of nutritional status, exhibiting significant relationships with energy and protein intakes as well as with fat stores and lean body mass. Serum transthyretin levels less than 300 mg/l were shown to be associated with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality in dialysis patients. The predictive value of transthyretin was shown to be independent of serum albumin. Regular measurements of both serum albumin and transthyretin make it possible to detect patients whose prognosis is compromised by malnutrition and in whom an active nutritional therapy must be undertaken. Simultaneous measurements of inflammatory markers such as serum C-reactive protein are required to evaluate the role of inflammation in serum albumin and transthyretin variations. These low-cost protein parameters should be incorporated in the regular assessment of dialysis patients and measured every 1 to 3 months.
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