Racial Disparities Exist in End-of-Life Care for US Dialysis Patients

Released: 4/3/2013 7:00 AM EDT
Embargo expired: 4/11/2013 5:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Society of Nephrology (ASN)
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Citations Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

Differences are especially pronounced in regions that spend the most on end-of-life care

Highlights
• There is substantial regional variation in the magnitude of racial differences in end-of-life care among US adults with kidney failure.
• Black-white differences in dialysis discontinuation and hospice referral are most pronounced in regions with the highest levels of end-of-life spending.

More than 590,000 Americans in 2010 were treated for kidney failure.

Newswise — Washington, DC (April 11, 2013) — At the end of life, black patients with kidney failure receiving chronic dialysis are less likely to be referred to hospice and to discontinue dialysis compared with white patients, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN). Racial differences in care are especially pronounced in parts of the country that spend the most on end-of-life care. Efforts are needed to better understand why there are such large racial differences in end-of-life care and to ensure that such care reflects dialysis patients’ goals and preferences.

There are known racial differences in aspects of kidney health such as access to kidney transplantation and pre-dialysis kidney care, and health and survival during kidney disease and after kidney transplantation. Racial differences in patterns of end-of-life care have generally received much less attention, although studies indicate that black patients with kidney failure are less likely to be referred to hospice, less likely to discontinue dialysis, and more likely to receive intensive interventions such as ICU admission at the very end of life.

Most prior studies describing racial differences in patterns of end-of-life care have not examined whether the magnitude of these differences is uniform across different regions of the country. To investigate, Bernadette Thomas, MD (University of Washington, in Seattle) and her colleagues examined data from the United States Renal Data System on 101,331 black and white adult patients who initiated chronic dialysis or received a kidney transplant between 2005 and 2008 and died before October 1, 2009. The investigators also analyzed regional healthcare spending patterns from the Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare.

Similar to other studies, the researchers found that there were large racial differences in rates of hospice referral and dialysis discontinuation. However, when black and white patients were examined separately, the investigators also observed large differences in the frequency of hospice referral and dialysis discontinuation between high and low spending regions. “Although large racial differences in dialysis discontinuation and hospice referral were present in all regions, these differences were most pronounced in the highest spending regions,” said Dr. Thomas.

Study co-authors include Rudolph Rodriguez, MD, Edward Boyko, MD, Cassianne Robinson-Cohen, PhD, Annette Fitzpatrick PhD, and Ann O’Hare MD.

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures.

The article, entitled “Geographic Variation in Black-White Differences in End-of-Life Care for Patients with End-stage Renal Disease,” will appear online at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/ on April 11, 2013, doi: 10.2215/CJN.06780712.

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Founded in 1966, and with more than 13,500 members, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) leads the fight against kidney disease by educating health professionals, sharing new knowledge, advancing research, and advocating the highest quality care for patients.

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