Background: In the past 2 decades, a rapid growth has occurred in the number of patients over 65 years of age accepted for renal replacement therapy (RRT) with an increasing need for dialysis resources as a consequence. The aim of this study is to describe the trends in incidence, treatment and outcome of RRT of these elderly patients included in the new ERA-EDTA Registry database.
Methods: Data from 6 national renal registries have been included for the period 1985 - 1999, comprising data of 18,920 elderly patients starting RRT. We used Cox-proportional hazards regression to predict patient and technique survival.
Results: The incidence and prevalence of RRT showed a 4- to 5-fold increase over the period, resulting in 48% of the new patients being older than 65 years in 1999. However, the rates varied considerably between countries. The 2-year patient survival was 51% in dialysis patients. Mortality due to social causes increased with age. Multivariate analysis showed no change with time in patient survival on dialysis, but the risk of death following a first renal allograft between 1995 and 1999 was reduced by 31%, compared with the 1985 - 1989 time period (RR 0.69; 95% CI: 0.54 - 0.90). The relative risk of peritoneal dialysis technique failure was more than doubled in the 1995 - 1999 cohort compared to the 1985 - 1989 cohort (RR 2.38; 95% CI: 1.89 - 3.01), with the highest technique failure rate in the first 2 years of the 1995 - 1999 cohort.
Conclusions: The number of elderly patients receiving RRT is rising rapidly. Patient survival on dialysis has been stable over the last 15 years, whereas transplant outcome has improved. The increased peritoneal dialysis technique failure and the high mortality due to social causes in the elderly age groups require further investigation. The challenge of the years ahead is to provide this life-prolonging therapy to all patients who need it in such a way that it improves quality of life and at a cost that a society can afford.