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      Dialysis and the Elderly: An Underestimated Problem

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          In developed countries, the incidence of end-stage renal failure is constantly increasing, and uremia will soon be a disease typically found in mature and elderly adults. Almost invariably, the physical condition of the elderly patient with terminal uremia is extremely poor, and therapeutic approach complex. Frequent co-morbidity, treatment with many different drugs, the high risk of iatrogenic damage, advanced age and socio-environmental conditions further complicate the management of these patients. While replacement therapy may become necessary, peritoneal dialysis may have advantages over hemodialysis. Peritoneal dialysis causes less hemodynamic stress, does not necessitate vascular access and allows mobility, although it incurs a high incidence of peritonitis and vascular disease. Where hemodialysis is the only feasible treatment, procedures used for vascular access are frequently followed by several complications, representing an important cause of morbidity and hospitalization. In addition, even if it may improve the patient’s quality of life, vascular condition, intradialytic hypotension, heart disease, intestinal bleeding and amyloidotic arthropathy are critical aspects of dialysis in the elderly patient. Therefore, particular attention from clinicians and administrators is required and the best possible strategies must be identified in order to provide effective and appropriate services to address these special patients’ needs.

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          Most cited references 20

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          Dialysis or not? A comparative survival study of patients over 75 years with chronic kidney disease stage 5.

          The number of elderly patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 5 is steadily increasing. Evidence is needed to inform decision-making for or against dialysis, especially in those patients with multiple comorbid conditions for whom dialysis may not increase survival. We therefore compared survival of elderly patients with CKD stage 5, managed either with dialysis or conservatively (without dialysis), after the management decision had been made, and explored which of several key variables were independently associated with survival. A retrospective analysis of the survival of all over 75 years with CKD stage 5 attending dedicated multidisciplinary pre-dialysis care clinics (n=129) was performed. Demographic and comorbidity data were collected on all patients. Survival was defined as the time from estimated GFR<15 ml/min to either death or study endpoint. One- and two-year survival rates were 84% and 76% in the dialysis group (n=52) and 68% and 47% in the conservative group (n=77), respectively, with significantly different cumulative survival (log rank 13.6, P<0.001). However, this survival advantage was lost in those patients with high comorbidity scores, especially when the comorbidity included ischaemic heart disease. In CKD stage 5 patients over 75 years, who receive specialist nephrological care early, and who follow a planned management pathway, the survival advantage of dialysis is substantially reduced by comorbidity and ischaemic heart disease in particular. Comorbidity should be a major consideration when advising elderly patients for or against dialysis.
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            Octogenarians reaching end-stage renal disease: cohort study of decision-making and clinical outcomes.

            The fate of octogenarians reaching end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is poorly defined, and implicit dialysis rationing may be practiced in this age group. The main objectives of this study were to analyze the characteristics of pre-ESRD octogenarians offered dialysis or not and to identify factors influencing mortality while on dialysis, to improve prognosis assessment and decision-making. In this single-center cohort, 146 consecutive pre-ESRD octogenarians were referred to a nephrology unit over a 12-yr period (1989 to 2000). Main outcome measures were baseline characteristics of patients offered dialysis and conservative therapy and overall and 1-yr survival according to effective treatment. A therapeutic decision was made for 144 patients. Octogenarians who were not proposed dialysis (n = 37) differed from those who were proposed dialysis (n = 107) mainly in terms of social isolation (43.3% versus 14.7%; P = 0.03), late nephrologic referral (51.4% versus 28.9%; P = 0.01), Karnofsky score (55 +/- 18 versus 63 +/- 20; P = 0.03), and diabetic status (22.2% versus 6.5%, P = 0.008). Six patients refused the dialysis proposal. During the 12-yr observation period, 99 patients died (68.7%). Median survival was 28.9 mo (95% CI, 24 to 38) in patients undergoing dialysis, compared with 8.9 mo (95% CI, 4 to 10) in patients treated conservatively (P < 0.0001). In multivariable piecewise Cox analysis, independent predictors of death within 1 yr on dialysis were poor nutritional status, late referral, and functional dependence. Included in a survivor function, these covariates predict groups with low and high 1-yr mortality risk. Beyond 1 yr on dialysis, the only independent predictor of death was the presence of peripheral vascular disease. It is concluded that beside a patient's individual refusal, late referral, social isolation, low functional capacity, and diabetes may have oriented medical decision toward withholding dialysis in a significant proportion of pre-ESRD octogenarians. Although most patients on dialysis experienced a substantial prolongation of life, identification of mortality predictors in this age group should improve the process of decision-making regarding the expected benefit of renal replacement therapy.
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              Clinical outcomes, quality of life, and costs in the North Thames Dialysis Study of elderly people on dialysis: a prospective cohort study.

              Evidence-based health policy is urgently needed to meet the increasing demand for health services among elderly people, particularly for expensive technologies such as renal-replacement therapy. Age has been used to ration dialysis, although not always explicitly, despite the lack of rigorous empirical evidence about how elderly people fare on dialysis. We undertook a comprehensive assessment of outcomes in patients 70 years or over. We did a 12-month prospective cohort study of outcomes in 221 patients with end-stage renal failure aged 70 years or over recruited from four hospital-based renal units. We assessed 1-year survival in 125 incident patients (70-86 years) and disease burden (hospital admissions, quality of life, costs) in 174 prevalent patients (70-93 years). 1-year survival rates were: 71% overall; 80%, 69%, and 54% in patients 70-74 years, 75-79 years, and 80 years and older, respectively (p=0.008); and 88%, 71%, and 64% in patients with no, one, or two or more comorbid conditions, respectively (p=0.056). Cox regression analyses showed that mortality was significantly associated with age 80 years and older (relative risk 2.79 [95% CI 1.28-6.93]) and peripheral vascular disease (2.83 [1.29-6.17]), but not with diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive airways disease, sex, or treatment method. In terms of disease burden, hospital admissions represent a low proportion of costs and was not required by a third of patients, mental quality of life in elderly dialysis patients was similar to that of elderly people in the general population, and the average annual cost per patient of 20802 (US$31200) (68% dialysis treatment, 1% transport, 19% inpatient hospital admissions, 12% medications) was within the range of other life-extending interventions. Our results suggest that age alone should not be used as a barrier to referral and treatment and emphasise the need to consider the benefits of dialysis in elderly people. Indicators of the ability to benefit from treatment, rather than chronological age, should be used to develop policies that ensure equal access to care for all.

                Author and article information

                Kidney Blood Press Res
                Kidney and Blood Pressure Research
                S. Karger AG
                December 2008
                21 October 2008
                : 31
                : 5
                : 330-336
                Chair of Nephrology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Messina, Messina, Italy
                164277 Kidney Blood Press Res 2008;31:330–336
                © 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 1, References: 42, Pages: 7

                Cardiovascular Medicine, Nephrology

                Quality of life, Dialysis, Vascular access, Uremia, Elderly


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