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JOURNAL ARTICLE

The dilemmas of patient treatment for end-stage renal disease

R W Schmidt, M Blumenkrantz, T B Wiegmann
American Journal of Kidney Diseases 1983, 3 (1): 37-47
6346866
In past years, physicians responsible for the treatment of chronic uremia have faced dilemmas that have been methodologic and economic while attempting to provide good patient care. These have been overcome, but in the course of time a larger one has developed. The current dilemma is one of high costs for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) management and the failure of current treatment programs to adequately rehabilitate the ESRD patient. In spite of widespread concern about this dilemma, few current data and even fewer projections exist about the eventual costs for their care. Existing data demonstrate several problems that are the basis of this dilemma: (1) the projections of incidence and prevalence of ESRD patients have been too low; (2) renal transplantation has failed to develop into a dominant (and least costly) form of ESRD therapy; (3) home dialysis programs have failed to offset the rapidly expanding in-center dialysis population; and (4) prevalence of and costs for chronic hemodialysis have increased far beyond expected levels. Using current data for the US population as to the incidence and overall mortality rate of ESRD patients, it is apparent that the dialysis population is only 39% of the way toward a steady state-corresponding to only the 4th year of a calculated 25-year growth curve. Although the current costs for maintenance of ESRD patients exceeds $1.3 billion, based upon such projections with the current distribution of patient treatment modalities, the overall annual cost will be in excess of $3.3 billion before a steady state is achieved. Improvement in mortality rates or increases in the incidence of patients will increase the steady state prevalence and the overall costs. Renal transplantation, unless kidney survival rate is increased so that it approximates patient survival, is unlikely to offset the rapidly increasing costs. New technology that would reduce the costs for center-based chronic hemodialysis has not been identified. Emphasis upon home dialysis modalities as a method of increasing patient rehabilitation and reducing costs appears to be a short-term necessity. Increased research and development in prevention of ESRD and in achieving better transplant kidney survival appear to be extremely important as long-term goals.

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