Purpose of review: The elderly constitute a substantial and growing fraction of the end-stage renal disease (ESRD) population. We review recent studies on ESRD incidence, management, and outcomes in the elderly.
Recent findings: Rates of treated ESRD among the elderly (>80 years) have risen by more than 50% in the last decade. In studies with a large number of elderly patients, median survival after dialysis initiation is modest, and although a majority have reasonable life expectancy, a substantial minority of elderly patients experience very high early mortality rates after dialysis initiation. Quality of life results are mixed--compared with younger ESRD patients or non-ESRD elderly, mental well being is similar and physical well being is reduced in elderly patients with ESRD. In several studies, elderly patients with ESRD initiating peritoneal dialysis had higher mortality rates than elderly patients with ESRD initiating hemodialysis. Strategies such as nondialytic management of ESRD or dietary protein restriction and delayed dialysis initiation may be alternatives for elderly patients wishing to avoid dialysis initiation, but further studies are needed to determine the patients best suited for these approaches. Quality improvement initiatives in geriatric ESRD care have been successfully implemented in some centers and may ultimately improve care for elderly patients with ESRD.
Summary: These findings should help to clarify some of the risks and benefits of dialysis in the elderly and may be useful in dialysis decision-making and management.