Importance: Approximately 1 in 4 patients receiving maintenance dialysis for end-stage renal disease eventually stop treatment before death. Little is known about the association of stopping dialysis and quality of end-of-life care.
Objectives: To evaluate the association of stopping dialysis before death with family-rated quality of end-of-life care and whether this association differed according to receipt of hospice services at the time of death.
Design, setting, and participants: This survey study included data from 3369 patients who were treated with maintenance dialysis at 111 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and died between October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2015. Data set construction and analyses were conducted from September 2017 to July 2019.
Exposure: Cessation of dialysis treatment before death.
Main outcomes and measures: Bereaved Family Survey ratings.
Results: Among 3369 patients included, the mean (SD) age at death was 70.6 (10.2) years, and 3320 (98.5%) were male. Overall, 937 patients (27.8%) stopped dialysis before death and 2432 patients (72.2%) continued dialysis treatment until death. Patients who stopped dialysis were more likely to have been receiving hospice services at the time of death than patients who continued dialysis (544 patients [58.1%] vs 430 patients [17.7%]). Overall, 1701 patients (50.5%) had a family member who responded to the Bereaved Family Survey. In adjusted analyses, families were more likely to rate overall quality of end-of-life care as excellent if the patient had stopped dialysis (54.9% vs 45.9%; risk difference, 9.0% [95% CI, 3.3%-14.8%]; P = .002) or continued to receive dialysis but also received hospice services (60.5% vs 40.0%; risk difference, 20.5% [95% CI, 12.2%-28.9%]; P < .001).
Conclusions and relevance: This survey study found that families rated overall quality of end-of-life care higher for patients who stopped dialysis before death or continued dialysis but received concurrent hospice services. More work to prepare patients for end-of-life decision-making and to expand access to hospice services may help to improve the quality of end-of-life care for patients with end-stage renal disease.