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      Contrasting approaches to end of life and palliative care in end stage kidney disease

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          With increased numbers of the elderly, including nursing home patients, being accepted for end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) management, there is heightened interest and focus on end of life decisions, advanced care planning and directives, withdrawal from dialysis and palliative care in this setting. Despite this, care at the individual patient level can vary greatly. Here, we present two contrasting cases to highlight the importance of early and ongoing involvement of palliative care in patients with ESKD. In the first case, a high quality of life was preserved before the patient died with dignity, with early interdisciplinary palliative care involvement. In the second case there was a long protracted period of poor quality of life prior to death. This was associated with resistance to the involvement of palliative care, mainly from the family. Addressing end of life care issues early in the chronic kidney disease (CKD) trajectory and ensuring patients, their families and health care providers are well informed, may contribute to a better outcome for the patient and their family.

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          Most cited references 14

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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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              End-stage renal disease in the United States: an update from the United States Renal Data System.

              Patients with ESRD consume a vastly disproportionate amount of financial and human resources. Approximately 0.03% of the US population began renal replacement therapy in 2004, an adjusted incidence rate of 339 per million. Declining incidence rates were observed for most primary causes of ESRD and in most major demographic categories; the worry is that rates of diabetic ESRD continue to rise in younger black adults. Although diabetes and hypertension remain the most commonly reported cause of ESRD, rates of end-stage atherosclerotic renovascular disease seem to be on the rise in older patients. Although clinical care indicators, such as the proportion of hemodialysis patients using fistulas, continue to improve gradually, the proportion of patients overshooting target hemoglobin levels under epoetin therapy may be a source of concern. Survival probabilities have improved steadily in the US ESRD population since the late 1980s, which is remarkable when one considers the ever-expanding burden of comorbidity in incident patients. However, although first-year dialysis mortality rates have clearly improved since 1987, meaningful improvements do not seem to have accrued since 1993, in contrast to steady annual improvements in years 2 through 5. Although most of these findings are grounds for cautious optimism, the same cannot be said for issues of cost; reflecting the growth in the size of the ESRD population, associated costs grew by 57% between 1999 and 2004 and now account for 6.7% of total Medicare expenditures.

                Author and article information

                Indian J Nephrol
                Indian J Nephrol
                Indian Journal of Nephrology
                Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd (India )
                Jul-Aug 2012
                : 22
                : 4
                : 307-309
                Department of Medicine, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
                [1 ]Department of Renal Medicine, Launceston General Hospital, Tasmania, Australia
                [2 ]School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia
                [3 ]Renal Medicine, Renal Research, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Queensland, Australia
                [4 ]The University of Queensland, School of Medicine, Queensland, Australia
                [5 ]The University of Queensland, School of Human Movement Studies, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia
                Author notes
                Address for correspondence: Prof. Robert G Fassett, Renal Research, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia- 4029. E-mail: r.fassett@
                Copyright: © Indian Journal of Nephrology

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Case Report


                morbidity, kidney failure, palliative care, conservative therapy, mortality


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