End-of-Life Care among US Adults with ESKD Who Were Waitlisted or Received a Kidney Transplant, 2005-2014

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2020 Oct;31(10):2424-2433. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2020030342. Epub 2020 Sep 9.


Background: The care of patients in the United States who have ESKD is often shaped by their hopes and prognostic expectations related to kidney transplant. Little is known about how patients' engagement in the transplant process might relate to patterns of end-of-life care.

Methods: We compared six measures of intensity of end-of-life care among adults in the United States with ESKD who died between 2005 and 2014 after experiencing differing exposure to the kidney transplant process.

Results: Of 567,832 decedents with ESKD, 27,633 (5%) had a functioning kidney transplant at the time of death, 14,653 (3%) had a failed transplant, 16,490 (3%) had been removed from the deceased donor waitlist, 17,010 (3%) were inactive on the waitlist, 11,529 (2%) were active on the waitlist, and 480,517 (85%) had never been waitlisted for or received a transplant (reference group). In adjusted analyses, compared with the reference group, patients exposed to the transplant process were significantly more likely to have been admitted to an intensive care unit and to have received an intensive procedure in the last 30 days of life; they were also significantly more likely to have died in the hospital. Those who died on the transplant waitlist were also less likely than those in the reference group to have been enrolled in hospice and to have discontinued dialysis before death.

Conclusions: Patients who had engaged in the kidney transplant process received more intensive patterns of end-of-life care than other patients with ESKD. These findings support the relevance of advance care planning, even for this relatively healthy segment of the ESKD population.

Keywords: United States Renal Data System; end-stage renal disease; kidney transplantation; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advance Care Planning
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Care*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Survival Rate
  • Terminal Care*
  • United States
  • Waiting Lists*
  • Young Adult