Background: Up-until-now, the survival and health-related quality of life of hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients has only been compared in observational studies. These studies have reported small and opposing differences between both modalities. The aim of this study was to compare the outcome of hemodialysis as initial chronic dialysis treatment with that of peritoneal dialysis in a randomized controlled trial.
Methods: All new dialysis patients from 38 dialysis centers in The Netherlands without indications against either modality were invited to participate. Patients were assigned to start with hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. The primary outcome was mean quality-adjusted life year (QALY) score. Secondary outcome was survival.
Results: Due to the low inclusion rate, the trial was prematurely stopped after which 38 patients had been randomized: 18 patients to hemodialysis and 20 to peritoneal dialysis. The mean QALY score in the first 2 years was 59.1 (SD 12) for hemodialysis patients versus 54.0 (SD 19) for peritoneal dialysis patients, which constitutes a small difference in favor of hemodialysis of 5.1 (95%CI -7.3 to 17.6) After 5 years of follow-up, nine hemodialysis and five peritoneal dialysis patients had died, a significant difference in survival; hazard ration of hemodialysis versus peritoneal dialysis of 3.8 (95%CI 1.1 to 12.6). After adjustment for age, comorbidity, and primary kidney disease the hazard ratio was 3.6 (0.8 to 15.4).
Conclusion: Only a small difference in QALY score was observed between patients who started with hemodialysis compared to patients who started with peritoneal dialysis, lending support for the equivalence hypothesis. The significant difference in longer-term survival, which favored peritoneal dialysis in this small group of patients, could be used to posit that incident dialysis patients might benefit from starting on peritoneal dialysis.