Phosphate binder use and mortality among hemodialysis patients in the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS): evaluation of possible confounding by nutritional status

Am J Kidney Dis. 2012 Jul;60(1):90-101. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2011.12.025. Epub 2012 Mar 3.


Background: Poor nutritional status and both hyper- and hypophosphatemia are associated with increased mortality in maintenance hemodialysis (HD) patients. We assessed associations of phosphate binder prescription with survival and indicators of nutritional status in maintenance HD patients.

Study design: Prospective cohort study (DOPPS [Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study]), 1996-2008.

Setting & participants: 23,898 maintenance HD patients at 923 facilities in 12 countries.

Predictors: Patient-level phosphate binder prescription and case-mix-adjusted facility percentage of phosphate binder prescription using an instrumental-variable analysis.

Outcome: All-cause mortality.

Results: Overall, 88% of patients were prescribed phosphate binders. Distributions of age, comorbid conditions, and other characteristics showed small differences between facilities with higher and lower percentages of phosphate binder prescription. Patient-level phosphate binder prescription was associated strongly at baseline with indicators of better nutrition, ie, higher values for serum creatinine, albumin, normalized protein catabolic rate, and body mass index and absence of cachectic appearance. Overall, patients prescribed phosphate binders had 25% lower mortality (HR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.68-0.83) when adjusted for serum phosphorus level and other covariates; further adjustment for nutritional indicators attenuated this association (HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.80-0.97). However, this inverse association was observed for only patients with serum phosphorus levels ≥3.5 mg/dL. In the instrumental-variable analysis, case-mix-adjusted facility percentage of phosphate binder prescription (range, 23%-100%) was associated positively with better nutritional status and inversely with mortality (HR for 10% more phosphate binders, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.89-0.96). Further adjustment for nutritional indicators reduced this association to an HR of 0.95 (95% CI, 0.92-0.99).

Limitations: Results were based on phosphate binder prescription; phosphate binder and nutritional data were cross-sectional; dietary restriction was not assessed; observational design limits causal inference due to possible residual confounding.

Conclusions: Longer survival and better nutritional status were observed for maintenance HD patients prescribed phosphate binders and in facilities with a greater percentage of phosphate binder prescription. Understanding the mechanisms for explaining this effect and ruling out possible residual confounding require additional research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Dialysis Solutions / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphosphatemia / prevention & control*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Nutritional Status
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects
  • Renal Dialysis / mortality*


  • Dialysis Solutions
  • Phosphates