The prescription of hemodialysis (HD) in patients with incident end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) is fundamentally empirical. The abrupt transition from nondialysis chronic kidney disease (CKD) to thrice-weekly in-center HD of much the same dialysis intensity as in those with prevalent ESKD underappreciates the progressive nature of kidney disease whereby the decline in renal function has been gradual and ongoing-including at the time of HD initiation. Adjuvant pharmacologic treatment (i.e., diuretics, acid buffers, potassium binders), coupled with residual kidney function (RKF), can complement an initial HD regimen of lower intensity. Barriers to less intensive HD in incident ESKD include risk of inadequate clearance of uremic toxins due to variable and unexpected loss of RKF, lack of patient adherence to assessments of RKF or adjustment of HD intensity, increased burden for all stakeholders in the dialysis units, and negative financial repercussions. A stepped dialysis regimen with scheduled transition from time-delineated twice-weekly HD to thrice-weekly HD could represent an effective and safe strategy to standardize incremental HD in patients with CKD transitioning to early-stage ESKD. Patients' adherence and survival as well as other clinical outcomes should be rigorously evaluated in clinical trials before large-scale implementation of different incremental schedules of HD. This review discusses potential benefits of and barriers to alternative dialysis regimens in patients with incident ESKD, with emphasis on twice-weekly HD with pharmacologic therapy, and summarizes in-progress clinical trials of incremental HD schedules.
Keywords: clinical trials; hemodialysis; incremental dialysis; transition; twice-weekly.
© 2019 International Society of Nephrology. Published by Elsevier Inc.