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The Effect of Erythropoietin-Stimulating Agents on Health-Related Quality of Life in Anemia of Chronic Kidney Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

BACKGROUND: The efficacy of erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs) for improving health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in anemia of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is unclear.

PURPOSE: To determine the effect of ESAs on HRQOL at different hemoglobin targets in adults with CKD who were receiving or not receiving dialysis.

DATA SOURCES: Searches of PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, and from inception to 1 November 2015, supplemented with manual screening.

STUDY SELECTION: Randomized, controlled trials that evaluated the treatment of anemia with ESAs, including erythropoietin and darbepoetin, targeted higher versus lower hemoglobin levels, and used validated HRQOL metrics.

DATA EXTRACTION: Study characteristics, quality, and data were assessed independently by 2 reviewers. Outcome measures were scores on the Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36), Kidney Dialysis Questionnaire (KDQ), and other tools.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Of 17 eligible studies, 13 reported SF-36 outcomes and 4 reported KDQ outcomes. Study populations consisted of patients not undergoing dialysis (n = 12), those undergoing dialysis (n = 4), or a mixed sample (n = 1). Only 4 studies had low risk of bias. Pooled analyses showed that higher hemoglobin targets resulted in no statistically or clinically significant differences in SF-36 or KDQ domains. Differences in HRQOL were further attenuated in studies at low risk of bias and in subgroups of dialysis recipients.

LIMITATION: Statistically significant heterogeneity among studies, few good-quality studies, and possible publication bias.

CONCLUSION: ESA treatment of anemia to obtain higher hemoglobin targets does not result in important differences in HRQOL in patients with CKD.

PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: KRESCENT and Manitoba Health Research Council Establishment.

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