Self-reported Pruritus and Clinical, Dialysis-Related, and Patient-Reported Outcomes in Hemodialysis Patients

Kidney Med. 2020 Nov 21;3(1):42-53.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.xkme.2020.08.011. eCollection 2021 Jan-Feb.


Rationale & objective: Chronic kidney disease (CKD)-associated pruritus, generalized itching related to CKD, affects many aspects of hemodialysis patients' lives. However, information regarding the relationship between pruritus and several key outcomes in hemodialysis patients remains limited.

Study design: Prospective cohort.

Setting & participants: 23,264 hemodialysis patients from 21 countries in the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS) phases 4 to 6 (2009-2018).

Exposure: Pruritus severity, based on self-reported degree to which patients were bothered by itchy skin (5-category ordinal scale from "not at all" to "extremely").

Outcomes: Clinical, dialysis-related, and patient-reported outcomes.

Analytical approach: Cox regression for time-to-event outcomes and modified Poisson regression for binary outcomes, adjusted for potential confounders.

Results: The proportion of patients at least moderately bothered by pruritus was 37%, and 7% were extremely bothered. Compared with the reference group ("not at all"), the adjusted mortality HR for patients extremely bothered by pruritus was 1.24 (95% CI, 1.08-1.41). Rates of cardiovascular and infection-related deaths and hospitalizations were also higher for patients extremely versus not at all bothered by pruritus (HR range, 1.17-1.44). Patients extremely bothered by pruritus were also more likely to withdraw from dialysis and miss hemodialysis sessions and were less likely to be employed. Strong monotonic associations were observed between pruritus severity and longer recovery time from a hemodialysis session, lower physical and mental quality of life, increased depressive symptoms, and poorer sleep quality.

Limitations: Residual confounding, recall bias, nonresponse bias.

Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate how diverse and far-reaching poor outcomes are for patients who experience CKD-associated pruritus, specifically those with more severe pruritus. There is need for change in practice patterns internationally to effectively identify and treat patients with pruritus to reduce symptom burden and improve quality of life and possibly even survival.

Keywords: hemodialysis; patient-reported outcomes; pruritus; quality of life.