Dialysis and plasmapheresis for schizophrenia: A systematic review

Emily R. Cox, Katie F.M. Marwick, Robert W. Hunter, Robert W. Hunter, Josef Priller, Josef Priller, Stephen M. Lawrie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Increasing evidence suggests that circulating factors and immune dysfunction may contribute to the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. In particular, proinflammatory cytokines, complement and autoantibodies against CNS epitopes have recently been associated with psychosis. Related concepts in previous decades led to several clinical trials of dialysis and plasmapheresis as treatments for schizophrenia. These trials may have relevance for the current understanding of schizophrenia. We aimed to identify whether dialysis or plasmapheresis are beneficial interventions in schizophrenia. We conducted a systematic search in major electronic databases for high-quality studies (double-blinded randomised trials with sham controls) applying either haemodialysis or plasmapheresis as an intervention in patients with schizophrenia, published in English from the start of records until September 2018. We found nine studies meeting inclusion criteria, reporting on 105 patients in total who received either sham or active intervention. One out of eight studies reported a beneficial effect of haemodialysis on schizophrenia, one a detrimental effect and six no effect. The sole trial of plasmapheresis found it to be ineffective. Adverse events were reported in 23% of patients. Studies were at unclear or high risk of bias. It is unlikely that haemodialysis is a beneficial treatment in schizophrenia, although the studies were of small size and could not consider potential subgroups. Plasmapheresis was only addressed by one study and warrants further exploration as a treatment modality in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1233-1240
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Blinded
  • dialysis
  • immune
  • plasmapheresis
  • randomised
  • schizophrenia
  • systematic
  • trial


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