Factors influencing the decision to start renal replacement therapy: results of a survey among European nephrologists

Am J Kidney Dis. 2012 Dec;60(6):940-8. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2012.07.015. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


Background: Little is known about the criteria nephrologists use in the decision of when to start renal replacement therapy (RRT) in early referred adult patients. We evaluated opinions of European nephrologists on the decision for when to start RRT.

Study design: European web-based survey.

Predictors: Patient presentations described as uncomplicated patients, patients with unfavorable clinical and unfavorable social conditions, or patients with specific clinical, social, and logistical factors.

Setting & participants: Nephrologists from 11 European countries.

Outcomes & measurements: We studied opinions of European nephrologists about the influence of clinical, social, and logistical factors on decision making regarding when to start RRT, reflecting practices in place in 2009. Questions included target levels of kidney function at the start of RRT and factors accelerating or postponing RRT initiation. Using linear regression, we studied determinants of target estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) at the start of RRT.

Results: We received 433 completed surveys. The median target eGFR selected to start RRT in uncomplicated patients was 10.0 (25th-75th percentile, 8.0-10.0) mL/min/1.73 m(2). Level of excretory kidney function was considered the most important factor in decision making regarding uncomplicated patients (selected by 54% of respondents); in patients with unfavorable clinical versus social conditions, this factor was selected by 24% versus 32%, respectively. Acute clinical factors such as life-threatening hyperkalemia refractory to medical therapy (100%) and uremic pericarditis (98%) elicited a preference for an immediate start, whereas patient preference (69%) and vascular dementia (66%) postponed the start. Higher target eGFRs were reported by respondents from high- versus low-RRT-incidence countries (10.4 [95% CI, 9.9-10.9] vs 9.1 mL/min/1.73 m(2)) and from for-profit versus not-for-profit centers (10.1 [95% CI, 9.5-10.7] vs 9.5 mL/min/1.73 m(2)).

Limitations: We were unable to calculate the exact response rate and examined opinions rather than practice for 433 nephrologists.

Conclusions: Only for uncomplicated patients did half the nephrologists consider excretory kidney function as the most important factor. Future studies should assess the weight of each factor affecting decision making.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Data Collection / trends*
  • Decision Making*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / epidemiology
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy*
  • Kidney Function Tests / methods
  • Kidney Function Tests / trends
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrology / methods
  • Nephrology / trends*
  • Physicians / trends*
  • Renal Replacement Therapy / methods
  • Renal Replacement Therapy / trends*