The frail world of haemodialysis patients in the COVID-19 pandemic era: a systematic scoping review

J Nephrol. 2021 Oct;34(5):1387-1403. doi: 10.1007/s40620-021-01136-5. Epub 2021 Aug 21.


Background: Patients undergoing in-centre haemodialysis (HD) are particularly exposed to the dire consequences of COVID-19. The present systematic scoping review aims to identify the extent, range, and nature of articles related to COVID-19 and maintenance HD: it reports specifically the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the HD population, implementation of strategies for the prevention, mitigation and containment of the COVID-19 pandemic in HD centres, demographic and clinical characteristics, and outcomes of the pediatric and adult HD patients.

Methods: A multi-step systematic search of the literature in Pubmed, Scopus, Ovid Medline, Embase and Web of Science, published between December 1, 2019, and January 30, 2021 was performed. Two authors separately screened the titles and abstracts of the documents and ruled out irrelevant articles. A report of the papers that met inclusion criteria was performed; then, a descriptive analysis of the characteristics of the included articles and a narrative synthesis of the results were performed.

Results: The review process ended with the inclusion of 145 articles. Most of them were based on single-centre experiences, which spontaneously developed best practices. Most studies were conducted in high-income countries (69.7%) and a part of them (9.6%) were not in English. Prevalence of COVID-19 among dialysis patients accounted for 0%-37.6%. Preventive measures were reported in 54% of the included articles, with particular emphasis on education, triage, hygiene, and containment measures. Patients experienced a heterogeneous spectrum of symptoms that led 35%-88.2% of them to hospital admission. Median and mean hospital length of stay ranged from 8 to 28.5 and 16.2 to 22 days, respectively. Admission to intensive care units varied widely across studies (from 2.6% to 70.5%) and was associated with high mortality (42.8%-100%). Overall, prognosis was poor in 0%-47% of the hospitalized patients.

Conclusions: This systematic scoping review provides an overview of the current knowledge on the impact of COVID-19 on the frail world of HD patients. Furthermore, it may help to implement the existing strategies of COVID-19 prevention and provide a list of unmet needs (safe transport, testing, shelter). Finally, it may be a stimulus for performing systematic reviews and meta-analyses which will form the basis for evidence-based guidelines.

Keywords: COVID-19; End-stage kidney disease; Haemodialysis; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Frail Elderly
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects
  • SARS-CoV-2