Introduction: Assessment of dialysis-related symptoms is not currently a requirement for hemodialysis (HD) providers in the United States. The purpose of this study was to describe patients' perspectives on symptoms associated with end-stage chronic kidney disease treated with thrice-weekly, in-center HD.
Methods: We performed a qualitative study using interpretive description. Interview questions were based on a KDIGO (Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes) controversies conference and a literature review. Semi-structured interviews were analyzed for characterizations of symptoms.
Findings: Fifty participants (48% female; 42% Hispanic; 30% American Indian; 14% Black; 12% non-Hispanic White) were recruited from six outpatient dialysis centers (four urban, two rural) in the southwestern United States. Median HD duration was 4 years. Of 13 symptoms assessed, nearly all participants reported difficulties with muscle cramping, fatigue, or both. Negotiating fluid removal with dialysis personnel helped to manage cramping. Some participants tried to adjust dialysis days and shift to mitigate fatigue. Most participants reported having experienced depression early in the course of dialysis; for some, it was a persistent or recurrent problem. Relatively few participants reported using antidepressants or counseling to cope with depression. Itching was highly distressing for those who experienced it frequently. Topical treatments, antihistamines, dietary modifications, and phosphate binders were identified as potentially helpful by some participants.
Discussion: The major symptoms attributed to HD treatment by participants were cramping, fatigue, depression, and itching. Greater attention by health care providers to the most common and bothersome symptoms could positively impact daily life for HD patients.
Keywords: hemodialysis; quality of life; self-management; symptoms.
© 2016 International Society for Hemodialysis.