Various muscle symptoms are well recognized among patients on maintenance hemodialysis. Carnitine deficiency may be an important factor of dialysis-associated muscle symptoms, whereas high-dose L-carnitine supplementation may result in unphysiologically high plasma levels of carnitine and carnitine esters. We studied the effect of low-dose L-carnitine treatment (500 mg/d) on muscle symptoms, plasma carnitine fractions, and lipid profiles in 30 periodically dialyzed patients with muscular weakness, fatigue, or cramps/aches. After 12 weeks of L-carnitine treatment, about two- thirds of patients had at least some improvement in muscular symptoms, whereas carnitine fractions were normal or slightly above normal ranges, but lipid profiles showed no demonstrable changes. This study also showed the correlation between plasma-free carnitine deficiency and months on dialysis. These results suggest that prolonged low-dose L-carnitine treatment can improve dialysis-associated muscle symptoms by restoring carnitine tissue levels and washing out acyl moieties.
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