Quality of Life before and after the Start of Dialysis in Older Patients

Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2022 Jul 28;17(8):1159-1167. doi: 10.2215/CJN.16371221. Online ahead of print.


Background and objectives: In older people with kidney failure, improving health-related quality of life is often more important than solely prolonging life. However, little is known about the effect of dialysis initiation on health-related quality of life in older patients. Therefore, we investigated the evolution of health-related quality of life before and after starting dialysis in older patients with kidney failure.

Design, setting, participants, & measurements: The European Quality study is an ongoing prospective, multicenter study in patients aged ≥65 years with an incident eGFR ≤20 ml/min per 1.73 m2. Between April 2012 and December 2021, health-related quality of life was assessed every 3-6 months using the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36), providing a mental component summary (MCS) and a physical component summary (PCS). Scores range from zero to 100, with higher scores indicating better health-related quality of life. With linear mixed models, we explored the course of health-related quality of life during the year preceding and following dialysis initiation.

Results: In total, 457 patients starting dialysis were included who filled out at least one SF-36 during follow-up. At dialysis initiation, mean ± SD age was 76±6 years, eGFR was 8±3 ml/min per 1.73 m2, 75% were men, 9% smoked, 45% had diabetes, and 46% had cardiovascular disease. Median (interquartile range) MCS was 53 (38-73), and median PCS was 39 (27-58). During the year preceding dialysis, estimated mean change in MCS was -13 (95% confidence interval, -17 to -9), and in PCS, it was -11 (95% confidence interval, -15 to -7). In the year following dialysis, estimated mean change in MCS was +2 (95% confidence interval, -7 to +11), and in PCS, it was -2 (95% confidence interval, -11 to +7). Health-related quality-of-life patterns were similar for most mental (mental health, role emotional, social functioning, vitality) and physical domains (physical functioning, bodily pain, role physical).

Conclusions: Patients experienced a clinically relevant decline of both mental and physical health-related quality of life before dialysis initiation, which stabilized thereafter. These results may help inform older patients with kidney failure who decided to start dialysis.

Keywords: aged; dialysis; end stage kidney disease; quality of life.