Patient and Health Care Professional Perspectives on Addressing Obesity in ESKD

Am J Kidney Dis. 2023 Apr 20;S0272-6386(23)00611-X. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2023.02.005. Online ahead of print.


Rationale & objective: Obesity is common among patients with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) and is a pervasive barrier to kidney transplantation. Patient perspectives about barriers to weight loss and patient and health care professionals' viewpoints about optimal obesity management in ESKD are needed.

Study design: Qualitative study using a descriptive phenomenological approach to understand ESKD patients' lived experiences with obesity and weight loss and patients' and health professionals' perceptions about optimal obesity care for ESKD patients.

Setting & participants: Between October 2020 and December 2021, we conducted 90-minute semistructured interviews with 40 ESKD patients with obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥30kg/m2) and 60-minute interviews with 20 ESKD health care professionals.

Analytical approach: Deductive and inductive thematic analysis of interviews.

Results: Among patients with ESKD, the median age was 55 (IQR, 46-63) years, median BMI was 39.5 (IQR, 35.3-41.6) kg/m2, and median dialysis vintage was 5 (IQR, 3-8) years; 58% were female, and 46% were non-Hispanic White. Among health care professionals, 50% were renal dietitians, 20% were nephrologists, and the remainder were transplant professionals (surgeons, nephrologists, and dietitians). ESKD patients described unique weight loss challenges, including (1) conflicting tenets of "kidney-friendly" versus popular diets, (2) fatigue due to dialysis that affects dietary choices, and (3) perceived pressure and unrealistic expectations from health professionals to lose weight for kidney transplantation. Professionals and patients described a lack of transparent and honest communication about obesity and unclear roles and responsibilities for obesity counseling.

Limitations: Lack of caregiver perspectives and potential lack of transferability to overall dialysis population given overrepresentation of patients with severe obesity and previous weight loss surgery.

Conclusions: Obesity interventions for ESKD patients should be tailored to meet the unique challenges reported by patients with ESKD. Clarifying ESKD health professionals' roles and responsibilities for obesity care would help to ensure that patients have consistent and effective support to manage obesity.

Plain-language summary: Adults with coexisting obesity and end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) are often required to lose weight for kidney transplantation. Yet there is little knowledge about barriers to healthy weight loss in this population. In this study, we conducted interviews with 40 ESKD patients with coexisting obesity and 20 ESKD health care professionals to learn about opportunities to improve obesity-related health care in ESKD. Patients reported that fatigue and dialysis affected dietary choices, and fluid and food restrictions hampered weight loss. Professionals described a lack of training, comfort, and time to address obesity. Patients and professionals reported a lack of open communication about obesity management. Improving obesity-related education and clinical communication should be prioritized to improve care for patients with ESKD and obesity.

Keywords: Dialysis; obesity; weight loss.