Cause of death for people with end-stage kidney disease withdrawing from treatment in Australia and New Zealand

Victor Khou, Nicole L De La Mata, Rachael L Morton, Patrick J Kelly, Angela C Webster
Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation 2020 August 4

BACKGROUND: Withdrawal from renal replacement therapy is common in patients with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), but end-of-life service planning is challenging without population-specific data. We aimed to describe mortality after treatment withdrawal in Australian and New Zealand ESKD patients and evaluate death-certified causes of death.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study on incident patients with ESKD in Australia, 1980-2013, and New Zealand, 1988-2012, from the Australian and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant registry. We estimated mortality rates (by age, sex, calendar year and country) and summarized withdrawal-related deaths within 12 months of treatment modality change. Certified causes of death were ascertained from data linkage with the Australian National Death Index and New Zealand Mortality Collection database.

RESULTS: Of 60 823 patients with ESKD, there were 8111 treatment withdrawal deaths and 26 207 other deaths over 381 874 person-years. Withdrawal-related mortality rates were higher in females and older age groups. Rates increased between 1995 and 2013, from 1142 (95% confidence interval 1064-1226) to 2706/100 000 person-years (95% confidence interval 2498-2932), with the greatest increase in 1995-2006. A third of withdrawal deaths occurred within 12 months of treatment modality change. The national death registers reported kidney failure as the underlying cause of death in 20% of withdrawal cases, with other causes including diabetes (21%) and hypertensive disease (7%). Kidney disease was not mentioned for 18% of withdrawal patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment withdrawal represents 24% of ESKD deaths and has more than doubled in rate since 1988. Population data may supplement, but not replace, clinical data for end-of-life kidney-related service planning.

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