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Nephron. 2017;137(3):178-189. doi: 10.1159/000477361. Epub 2017 May 25.

Dialysis Therapy and Conservative Management of Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease in the Elderly: A Systematic Review.

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Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



Dialysis in older adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and comorbidities may not be associated with improved life expectancy compared to conservative management. To inform clinical practice, we performed a systematic review of all available studies examining this hypothesis.


We performed a systematic review of retrospective and prospective cohort studies of older adults with stage-5 CKD who chose dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) or opted for conservative management (including management of complications of CKD and palliative care). Outcomes of interest included hospitalizations and mortality.


Twelve cohort studies (11,515 patients) were identified with most of them focusing on older adults. Patients choosing dialysis were younger compared to those opting for conservative management and were less functionally impaired. Patients opting for conservative management received care in a multidisciplinary setting focusing on palliative care and management of complications of CKD. Patients choosing dialysis and conservative management had a median survival time of 8-67 and 6-30 months, respectively. In a subset of studies of patients 65 years and older with an estimated glomerular filtration rate <15 mL/min/1.73 m2, and where the multivariable analyses included age and comorbidities, by meta-analysis, patients choosing dialysis had a pooled adjusted hazard ratio for mortality of 0.53 (95% CI 0.30-0.91, p = 0.02) relative to those opting for conservative management; however, significant heterogeneity precluded definitive conclusions.


When caring for older adults with advanced CKD who are contemplating dialysis therapy vs. conservative management, efforts must focus on promoting patient values and preferences, shared decision-making, and symptom burden alleviation.


Conservative management; Renal replacement therapy; Systematic review

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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