Brief Mindfulness Meditation for Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis: A Pilot Feasibility Study

Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2017 Dec 7;12(12):2008-2015. doi: 10.2215/CJN.03900417. Epub 2017 Oct 12.


Background and objectives: Up to 50% of patients undergoing hemodialysis suffer from symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Access to traditional pharmacotherapies and psychotherapies for depression or anxiety in this patient population has been inadequate. The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of brief mindfulness meditation intervention for patients on hemodialysis with depression and anxiety symptoms.

Design, setting, participants, & measurements: This study was a randomized, controlled, assessor-blinded trial conducted in an urban hemodialysis unit. Forty-one patients were randomly assigned to intervention (n=21) and treatment-as-usual (n=20) groups. The intervention group received an 8-week individual chairside meditation intervention lasting 10-15 minutes, three times a week during hemodialysis. Feasibility outcomes were primarily assessed: enrollment rates, intervention completion rates, and intervention tolerability. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and the General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7).

Results: Of those deemed eligible for the study, 67% enrolled (41 of 61). Of the participants randomized to the intervention group, 71% completed the study, with meditation being well tolerated (median rating of 8 of 10 in a Likert scale; interquartile range=10-5 of 10). Barriers to intervention delivery included frequent hemodialysis shift changes, interruptions by staff or alarms, space constraints, fluctuating participant medical status, and participant fatigue. Meditation was associated with subjective benefits but no statistically significant effect on depression scores (change in PHQ-9, -3.0±3.9 in the intervention group versus -2.0±4.7 in controls; P=0.45) or anxiety scores (change in GAD-7, -0.9±4.6 versus -0.8±4.8; P=0.91).

Conclusions: On the basis of the results of this study, mindfulness meditation appears to be feasible and well tolerated in patients on hemodialysis with anxiety and depression symptoms. The study did not reveal significant effects of the interventions on depression and anxiety scores.

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Keywords: Anxiety; Anxiety Disorders; Depressive Disorder; Meditation; Mindfulness; Surveys and Questionnaires; depression; dialysis; renal dialysis.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / organization & administration
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / prevention & control*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Facility Environment
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Renal Dialysis / psychology*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / psychology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / therapy
  • Single-Blind Method