Should the medicare ESRD program pay for daily dialysis? An ethical analysis

Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2007 Jul;14(3):290-6. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2007.03.001.


End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is a growing problem in the United States and has now reached epidemic proportions. The mortality rate and other complications related to conventional dialysis remain unacceptably high necessitating improvements in dialytic therapies. One strategy has been to increase dialysis frequency through daily dialysis since the Hemodialysis study showed that clinical outcomes are not improved by simply increasing delivered dialysis dose per session. Most studies of daily dialysis are observational and limited by small sample size, variable dialysis techniques, high patient dropout, and lack of adequate control group. These studies have shown consistent improvements in blood pressure and solute clearance, but improvements in patient survival, anemia, and health-related quality of life are less clear. The costs of providing daily dialysis on a large scale are likely to be substantial. However, if there are significant improvements in the outcome measures outlined earlier as well as decreased hospitalization rates, daily dialysis may prove cost-effective or budget neutral from a global standpoint. A scientific basis is needed to justify a change in the Medicare ESRD Program to fund daily dialysis. Decisions regarding the allocation of limited medical resources such as the Medicare budget should consider ethically appropriate criteria including likelihood of benefit, urgency of need, change in quality of life, duration of benefit, patient selection, equitable distribution, and the amount of resources required. In examining the evidence base on daily dialysis according to these ethical criteria, we find that there are not yet sufficient grounds to recommend funding of daily dialysis by the Medicare ESRD Program. Randomized controlled trials comparing conventional hemodialysis to short daily and long nocturnal hemodialysis are much needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cost Savings
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Medicare / economics*
  • Medicare / ethics*
  • Patient Selection
  • Reimbursement Mechanisms / economics*
  • Renal Dialysis / classification
  • Renal Dialysis / economics*
  • Renal Dialysis / ethics*
  • Renal Dialysis / methods
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States