Frail nephropathic patients: maximum conservative therapy or dialysis? Results from a retrospective observational study


Background and objectives: Chronic dialysis in frail nephropathic patients can worsen the symptom load and their functional autonomy, increasing the risk of early mortality. It is key to evaluate if dialysis treatment represents a real advantage for these patients; Maximum Conservative Therapy (MCT) associated with palliative care, could improve their residual quality of life, avoiding dialysis. The aim of this work is to describe the application and the relative terms of MCT in a complete series of cases followed in our Nephrological Clinic.

Study design and setting: This is a retrospective observational study on a cohort of 48 frail nephropathic patients in MCT and 58 on dialysis, in the period between January 2013 and December 2019. The place of death, Incidence Rate (IR) and Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR) related to survival and hospitalization rates were studied.

Results: The average duration of MCT was 9.7 months vs 13.5 months of dialysis treatment. One-year probability of survival of dialysis patient was 0.52 [CI 0.38-0.64] vs 0.48 [CI 0.33-0.62] in MCT patients; however, dialysis patients had higher rates of hospitalization (IR 2.780 vs 1.269 in MCT patients), IRR 2.19 [CI 1.66-2.89], according to literature [13]. 67% of dialysis patients died in hospital versus 35% of MCT patients. 34% of MCT patients are still alive at the time of data analysis (January 31, 2020); no dialysis patients are still alive on the same date.

Conclusions: The use of dialysis has shown a marginal, even though significant, effect on the average survival of frail nephropathic patients; however, they present a higher hospitalization rate, with consequent impact on the quality of life. The choice of the treatment (MCT vs dialysis) should not be merely based on the presence of comorbidities, but rather on the type of comorbidity found, which represents each time an element in favor of MCT or dialysis.

Keywords: conservative therapy, dialysis, survival, fragility

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La Malattia Renale Cronica (MRC) è il destino comune di molte nefropatie che possono evolvere fino alla necessità del trattamento sostitutivo dialitico o del trapianto renale. Si tratta quindi di un significativo problema di salute pubblica non solo in quanto causa di morbidità nella popolazione generale, ma anche e soprattutto perché rappresenta un fattore di rischio indipendente per la compromissione, il declino funzionale e la fragilità associandosi ad outcomes negativi come eccesso di mortalità e ospedalizzazione [1].


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