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Clin Kidney J. 2018 Apr;11(2):270-274. doi: 10.1093/ckj/sfx090. Epub 2017 Aug 31.

Intravenous drug users who require dialysis: causes of renal failure and outcomes.

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Richard Bright Renal Service, North Bristol NHS Trust, UK.



Intravenous drug use is associated with progressive kidney disease of several aetiologies. It is associated with behavioural and lifestyle characteristics that make the provision of renal replacement therapies (RRTs) challenging. We observed that patients who use intravenous drugs [people who inject drugs (PWID)] present late to renal services and struggle to engage with treatment. We describe the experience of a UK centre providing renal services to a mixed city and rural population.


A review of electronic patient records (2003-16) was performed to identify patients actively using intravenous drugs at the time of dialysis initiation. Descriptive statistics were used to describe aetiology, treatment, complications and prognosis.


Twenty-three patients were identified; 15 had a biopsy-proven diagnosis of AA amyloidosis. The median time from presentation to dialysis initiation was 47 days [interquartile range (IQR) 8-147.5]. Hepatitis C infection, venous thromboembolism and mental health disorders were common comorbidities. Eight patients attempted peritoneal dialysis; all failed after a median of 30 days (IQR 21.75-83). One-year survival was 65% (95% confidence interval 42-80), significantly lower than 2013 UK renal registry statistics for incident haemodialysis patients <65 years of age (94.2%).


PWID who develop end-stage kidney disease in our region predominantly have AA amyloidosis. Most present late to renal services and have poor outcomes on all forms of RRT. Rates of transplantation are low. Management challenges include coexisting alcohol and mental health problems, low socio-economic status, contamination of intravenous dialysis access and chaotic lifestyles. Multidisciplinary management with enhanced social support may be beneficial in improving outcomes for this patient group.


ESRD; amyloidosis; dialysis; hepatitis C; survival analysis; vascular access

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