Low hemoglobin at hemodialysis initiation: an international study of anemia management and mortality in the early dialysis period

Angelo Karaboyas, Hal Morgenstern, Sandra Waechter, Nancy L Fleischer, Raymond Vanholder, Stefan H Jacobson, Manish M Sood, Douglas E Schaubel, Masaaki Inaba, Ronald L Pisoni, Bruce M Robinson
Clinical Kidney Journal 2020, 13 (3): 425-433

Background: Anemia at hemodialysis (HD) initiation is common. Correcting low hemoglobin (Hgb) before HD initiation may improve survival by avoiding potential harms of chronic anemia, high doses of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) and intravenous (IV) iron in the early HD period, and/or rapid Hgb rise.

Methods: We included 4604 incident HD patients from 21 countries in the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study Phases 4-5 (2009-15). Because low Hgb at HD start may reflect comorbidity or ESA hyporesponse, we restricted our analysis to the 80% of patients who achieved Hgb ≥10 g/dL 91-120 days after HD start (Month 4).

Results: About 53% of these patients had Hgb <10 g/dL in Month 1 (<30 days after HD start); they were younger with a similar comorbidity profile (versus Hgb ≥10 g/dL). Month 1 Hgb was associated with first-year HD mortality (adjusted hazard ratio for 1 g/dL higher Hgb was 0.89; 95% confidence interval: 0.81-0.97), despite minimal differences in Month 4 Hgb. Patients with lower Hgb in Month 1 received higher doses of ESA, but not IV iron, over the first 3 months of HD. Results were consistent when excluding catheter users or adjusting for IV iron and ESA dose over the first 3 months.

Conclusions: Even among patients with Hgb ≥10 g/dL 3 months later, anemia at HD initiation was common and associated with elevated mortality. A more proactive approach to anemia management in advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) may thus improve survival on HD, though long-term prospective studies of non-dialysis CKD patients are needed.

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