Algorithm for optimal dialysis access timing

J G Heaf
Clinical Nephrology 2007, 67 (2): 96-104

BACKGROUND: Acute initiation of dialysis is associated with increased morbidity due to access and uremia complications. It is frequent despite early referral and regular out-patient control. We studied factors associated with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) progression in order to optimize the timing of dialysis access (DA).

METHODS: In a retrospective longitudinal study (Study 1), the biochemical and clinical course of 255 dialysis and 64 predialysis patients was registered to determine factors associated with dialysis-free survival (DFS). On the basis of these results an algorithm was developed to predict timely DA, defined as >6 weeks and <26 weeks before dialysis initiation, with too late placement weighted twice as harmful as too early. The algorithm was validated in a prospective study (Study 2) of 150 dialysis and 28 predialysis patients.

RESULTS: Acute dialysis was associated with increased 90-day hospitalization (17.9 vs. 9.0 days) and mortality (14% vs. 6%). P-creatinine and p-urea were poor indicators of DFS. At any level of p-creatinine, DFS was shorter with lower creatinine clearance and vice versa. Patients with systemic renal disease had a significantly shorter DFS than primary renal disease, due to faster GFR loss and earlier dialysis initiation. Short DFS was seen with hypoalbuminemia and cachexia; these patients were recommended early DA. The following algorithm was used to time DA (units: 1iM and ml/min/1.73 m2): P-Creatinine - 50 x GFR + (100 if Systemic Renal Disease) >200. Use of the algorithm was associated with earlier dialysis placement and a fall in acute dialysis requirements from 50% to 23%. The incidence of too early DA was unchanged (7% vs. 9%), and was due to algorithm non-application. The algorithm failed to predict imminent dialysis in 10% of cases, primarily due to acute exacerbation of stable uremia. Dialysis initiation was advanced by approximately one month.

CONCLUSIONS: A predialysis program based on early dialysis planning and GFR-based DA timing may reduce the requirement for acute dialysis initiation and patient morbidity and mortality, at the cost of slightly earlier dialysis initiation.

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