Importance: Prognostic understanding can shape patients' treatment goals and preferences. Patients undergoing dialysis in the United States have limited life expectancy and may receive end-of-life care directed at life extension. Little is known about their prognostic expectations.
Objective: To understand the prognostic expectations of patients undergoing dialysis and how these relate to care planning, goals, and preferences.
Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional survey study of 996 eligible patients treated with regular dialysis at 31 nonprofit dialysis facilities in 2 metropolitan areas (Seattle, Washington, and Nashville, Tennessee) between April 2015 and October 2018. After a pilot phase, 1434 eligible patients were invited to participate (response rate, 69.5%). To provide a context for interpreting survey participants' prognostic estimates, United States Renal Data System standard analysis files were used to construct a comparison cohort of 307 602 patients undergoing in-center hemodialysis on January 1, 2006, and followed for death through July 31, 2017. Final analyses for this study were conducted between November 2018 and March 2019.
Exposures: Responses to the question "How long would you guess people your age with similar health conditions usually live?" (<5 years, 5-10 years, >10 years, or not sure).
Main outcomes and measures: Self-reported (1) documentation of a surrogate decision-maker, (2) documentation of treatment preferences, (3) values around life prolongation, (4) preferences for receipt of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and mechanical ventilation, and (5) desired place of death.
Results: Of the 996 survey respondents, the mean (SD) age was 62.7 (13.9) years, and 438 (44.0%) were women. Overall, 112 (11.2%) survey respondents selected a prognosis of fewer than 5 years, 150 (15.1%) respondents selected 5 to 10 years, 330 (33.1%) respondents selected more than 10 years, and 404 (40.6%) were not sure. By comparison, 185 427 (60.3%) prevalent US in-center patients undergoing hemodialysis died within 5 years, 58 437 (19.0%) died within 5 to 10 years, and 63 738 (20.7%) lived more than 10 years. In analyses adjusted for participant characteristics, survey respondents with a prognostic expectation of more than 10 years (vs <5 years) were less likely to report documentation of a surrogate decision-maker (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.6; 95% CI, 0.4-0.9) and treatment preferences (aOR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-0.6) and to value comfort over life extension (aOR, 0.1; 95% CI, 0.04-0.3), and were more likely to want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (aOR, 5.3; 95% CI, 3.2-8.7) and mechanical ventilation (aOR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.2-3.7). The respondents who reported that they were not sure about prognosis had similar associations.
Conclusions and relevance: Uncertain and overly optimistic prognostic expectations may limit the benefit of advance care planning and contribute to high-intensity end-of-life care in patients undergoing dialysis.