Background: Anemia is common in hemodialysis (HD) patients.
Methods: Data collected from nationally representative samples of HD patients (n = 11,041) in 2002 to 2003 were used to describe current anemia management for long-term HD patients at 309 dialysis units in 12 countries. Analyses of associations and outcomes were adjusted for demographics, 15 comorbid classes, laboratory values, country, and facility clustering.
Results: For patients on dialysis therapy for longer than 180 days, 23% to 77% had a hemoglobin (Hgb) concentration less than 11 g/dL (<110 g/L), depending on country; 83% to 94% were administered erythropoietin (EPO). Mean Hgb levels were 12 g/dL (120 g/L) in Sweden; 11.6 to 11.7 g/dL (116 to 117 g/L) in the United States, Spain, Belgium, and Canada; 11.1 to 11.5 g/dL (111 to 115 g/L) in Australia/New Zealand, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and France; and 10.1 g/dL (101 g/L) in Japan. Hgb levels were substantially lower for new patients with end-stage renal disease, and EPO use before ESRD ranged from 27% (United States) to 65% (Sweden). By patient, EPO use significantly declined with greater Hgb concentration (adjusted odds ratio, 0.61 per 1-g/dL [10-g/L] greater Hgb level; P < 0.0001), as did EPO dosage. Case-mix-adjusted mortality and hospitalization risk declined by 5% and 6% per 1-g/dL greater patient baseline Hgb level (P < or = 0.003 each), respectively. Furthermore, patient mortality and hospitalization risks were 10% to 12% lower for every 1-g/dL greater facility mean Hgb level. Patients were significantly more likely to have Hgb levels of 11 g/dL or greater (> or =110 g/L) if they were older; were men; had polycystic kidney disease; had greater albumin, transferrin saturation, or calcium levels; were not dialyzing with a catheter; or had lower ferritin levels. Facilities with greater intravenous iron use showed significantly greater facility mean Hgb concentrations. Mean EPO dose varied from 5,297 (Japan) to 17,360 U/wk (United States). Greater country mean EPO doses were significantly associated with greater country mean Hgb concentrations. Several patient characteristics were associated with greater EPO doses. Even in some countries with high intravenous iron use, 35% to 40% of patients had a transferrin saturation less than 20% (below guidelines).
Conclusion: These findings indicate large international variations in anemia management, with significant improvements during the last 5 years, although many patients remain below current anemia guidelines, suggesting large and specific opportunities for improvement.