A dramatic increase in the “early start” of dialysis with an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) at least 10 mL/min/1.73 m2 has occurred in the United States since at least 1996. Several recent studies have reported a comorbidity-adjusted survival disadvantage of early start of dialysis. The current study examines a relatively “healthy” dialysis cohort to minimize confounding issues and determine whether early initiation of hemodialysis is associated with a survival benefit or harm.
We examined demographics, year of dialysis initiation, primary etiology of renal failure, and body mass index, hemoglobin, and serum albumin levels in 81 176 nondiabetic, 20- to 64-year-old, in-center incident hemodialysis patients with no reported comorbidity besides hypertension. We compared survival, using a piecewise proportional hazards model to estimate covariate-adjusted mortality hazard ratios (HRs) for eGFR at the time of initiation of dialysis. We also performed time-dependent adjusted analysis stratified by initial serum albumin levels lower than 2.5 g/dL, 2.5 to 3.49 g/dL, and 3.5 g/dL or higher (the “healthiest” group [HG]).
Unadjusted 1-year mortality by eGFR ranged from 6.8% in the reference group (eGFR <5.0 mL/min/1.73 m2) to 20.1% in the highest eGFR group (≥15.0 mL/min/1.73 m2). Compared with the reference group, the HR for the HG was 1.27 (eGFR, 5.0-9.9 mL/min/1.73 m2), 1.53 (eGFR, 10.0-14.9 mL/min/1.73 m2), and 2.18 (eGFR ≥15.0 mL/min/1.73 m2) and ranged from 1.50 to 3.53 mL/min/1.73 m2 in the first year of dialysis for the early-start group.
The increased HR during hemodialysis associated with early start in the healthiest group of patients undergoing dialysis indicates that early start of dialysis may be harmful.