Confounding effect of comorbidity in survival studies in patients on renal replacement therapy

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2007 Jan;22(1):187-95. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfl502. Epub 2006 Sep 23.


Background: After taking other confounding factors into account, the impact of comorbidity on mortality was investigated when comparing mortality between five European countries, dialysis modalities and renal disease groups.

Methods: The study included 15 571 incident patients on renal replacement therapy (RRT) from five national or regional registries participating in the European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association Registry that collect comorbidity data. The presence of diabetes mellitus, ischaemic heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease and malignancy was recorded at the start of RRT.

Results: The comorbidities were each independently associated with mortality, with hazard ratios (HRs) ranging from 1.40 (95% CI: 1.30-1.51) for peripheral vascular disease to 1.65 (95% CI: 1.48-1.83) for diabetes. Age, gender, primary renal disease, modality and country together explained 14.4% of the variance in mortality; the comorbidities explained an additional 1.9%. In the comparison of renal vascular disease with glomerulonephritis, the crude HR of 2.40 (95% CI: 2.12-2.72) changed to 1.24 (95% CI: 1.09-1.41) after adjustment for age, gender, primary renal disease, treatment modality and country and to 1.06 (95% CI: 0.93-1.22) after further adjustment for the comorbidities. For the comparison between countries and other patient groups, the change in the survival estimate after adjustment for comorbidity was less.

Conclusion: Comorbidity is an important predictor for mortality. However, after adjustment for age, gender, primary renal disease, treatment modality and country, when comparing outcomes between patient groups the influence of comorbidity may be less important than expected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Dialysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Renal Replacement Therapy / methods*
  • Survival Analysis