Are North American nephrologists biased against peritoneal dialysis?

A F Charest, D C Mendelssohn
Peritoneal Dialysis International 2001, 21 (4): 335-7

OBJECTIVE: To examine possible bias against peritoneal dialysis (PD) by nephrologists less familiar with it.

DESIGN: Secondary analysis of a previously reported survey.

PARTICIPANTS: All practicing Canadian nephrologists (n = 290, response rate 66.2%) and a subgroup of American nephrologists who were members of the National Kidney Foundation Council on Dialysis (n = 507, response rate 47.3%). Responses were then subdivided by type of dialysis practice: mainly or only hemodialysis (HD, n = 117), mainly or only PD (n = 16), or both HD and PD (n = 232).

INTERVENTION: Self-administered mailed questionnaire.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Opinions and attitudes of nephrologists concerning patient characteristics favoring one dialysis modality over the other, as well as the relative utilization of HD and PD currently and in a hypothetical ideal situation.

RESULTS: The main differences were present between physicians practicing mainly HD and physicians practicing mainly PD, with those practicing both giving answers usually intermediate to the others. The maximum weight suitable for PD was 10 kg less according to HD-oriented nephrologists compared with PD-oriented nephrologists (97.8 kg vs 108.5 kg). All nephrologists agreed that, ideally, 40% of prevalent end-stage renal disease patients should be on PD to optimize cost-effectiveness, whereas the proportion should be between 32% and 45% when one optimizes survival, wellness, and quality of life. In general, differences between groups were small.

CONCLUSIONS: Most nephrologists favored a proportion of PD higher than the current prevalence seen in either Canada or the U.S.A. If physicians' biases are contributing to the distribution of dialysis modalities, they are not likely to be major factors. Unknown but important factors, external to the physician, may shape modality distribution more than the opinions and attitudes of physicians. If a more balanced and cost-effective dialysis delivery system is desired, more understanding and manipulation of these non physician-related factors will be required.

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