Background: Recent studies have documented racial differences in the crude mortality rates of patients on dialysis. However, proper interpretation of these findings requires adjustment for potential confounders and comorbid risk factors between the racial groups.
Methods: We examined the clinical data on 3752 Caucasian patients, 451 Southeast Asian patients, 322 South Asian patients, and 319 black patients who were treated with hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis under a Universal Health Care system in Toronto and prospectively followed between 1981 and 1995. In all patients, a number of comorbid risk factors for survival was assessed at the start of dialysis and was reassessed with their outcome status (that is, continued dialysis, transplantation, death, or loss to follow-up) at least every six months. Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to fit multivariate models predicting patient survival. Pairwise comparisons of the relative hazards of death between the racial groups were performed after stratifying for cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension at the start of dialysis, and were adjusted for differences in other comorbid risk factors.
Results: The risk of death in Caucasian patients was significantly increased when compared with Southeast Asian patients, South Asian patients, and black patients [multivariate relative hazards (95% CI): 1.63 (1.36 to 1.97), 1.36 (1.07 to 1.73), 1.34 (1.07 to 1.67), respectively]. Additionally, we detected an interaction between race and cigarette smoking (P < 0. 004), suggesting that in the dialysis patients who smoked, whites had a higher mortality risk compared with non-whites.
Conclusions: Differences in patient survival on dialysis exist between racial groups. However, the genetic and environmental determinants that underlie these differences are presently unknown.