Background: The endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) dysfunction is a critical event in the initiation of atherosclerotic plaque development and the level of circulating EPCs can be considered a biomarker of cardiovascular events. The level and functional change in EPCs has been investigated in hemodialysis patients, but the effect of absolute number of EPCs on risk of death has not yet been explored. We hypothesized that the number of EPCs predicted death from cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in hemodialysis patients. Methods: We evaluate the association between endothelial progenitor cells and clinical outcome in 154 patients on maintenance hemodialysis. The blood sample was drawn at the time of patient enrollment and EPCs were identified by flow cytometry using triple staining for CD34/CD133/KDR. Results: The median duration of follow-up was 4.19 years. There were 79 (51.3%) deaths during the follow-up period, 41 of whom died due to a confirmed cardiovascular cause. The cumulative survival was greater in the high-EPC group than the low-EPC group for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Decreased EPCs levels were associated with a significant increase in the risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality after adjusting for age, gender, current smokers, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. Conclusions: The level of circulating EPCs independently predicts the clinical outcome in patients on maintenance hemodialysis. Thus, the EPCs levels may be a useful predictive tool for evaluating the risk of death in maintenance hemodialysis patients.
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