End-of-Life Care for Patients With Advanced Kidney Disease in the US Veterans Affairs Health Care System, 2000-2011

Am J Kidney Dis. 2018 Jul;72(1):42-49. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2017.11.007. Epub 2018 Jan 10.


Background: Little is known about patterns of end-of-life care for patients with advanced kidney disease not treated with maintenance dialysis.

Study design: Case series.

Setting & participants: A sample of 14,071 patients with sustained estimated glomerular filtration rates < 15mL/min/1.73m2 treated in the US Veterans Affairs health care system who died during 2000 to 2011. Before death, 12,756 of these patients had been treated with dialysis, 503 had been discussing and/or preparing for dialysis therapy, and for 812, there had been a decision not to pursue dialysis therapy.

Outcomes: Hospitalization and receipt of an intensive procedure during the final month of life, in-hospital death, and palliative care consultation and hospice enrollment before death.

Results: Compared with decedents treated with dialysis, those for whom a decision not to pursue dialysis therapy had been made were less often hospitalized (57.3% vs 76.8%; OR, 0.40 [95% CI, 0.34-0.46]), less often the recipient of an intensive procedure (3.5% vs 24.6%; OR, 0.15 [95% CI, 0.10-0.22]), more often the recipient of a palliative care consultation (52.6% vs 21.6%; OR, 4.19 [95% CI, 3.58-4.90]), more often used hospice services (38.7% vs 18.2%; OR, 3.32 [95% CI, 2.83-3.89]), and died less frequently in a hospital (41.4% vs 57.3%; OR, 0.78 [95% CI, 0.74-0.82]). Hospitalization (55.5%; OR, 0.39 [95% CI, 0.32-0.46]), receipt of an intensive procedure (13.7%; OR, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.46-0.77]), and in-hospital death (39.0%; OR, 0.47 [95% CI, 0.39-0.56]) were also less common among decedents who had been discussing and/or preparing for dialysis therapy, but their use of palliative care and hospice services was similar.

Limitations: Findings may not be generalizable to groups not well represented in the Veterans Affairs health care system.

Conclusions: Among decedents, patients not treated with dialysis before death received less intensive patterns of end-of-life care than those treated with dialysis. Decedents for whom there had been a decision not to pursue dialysis therapy before death were more likely to receive palliative care and hospice.

Keywords: Chronic kidney disease (CKD); conservative care; dialysis; end-of-life care; health care intensity; hospice; intensive treatment; kidney failure; palliative care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Hospice Care / methods
  • Hospice Care / trends
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / trends
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / trends*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs / trends*
  • Veterans*