Background. Early nephrology referral of patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) has been suggested to reduce mortality after initiation of dialysis. This retrospective cohort study of incident dialysis patients between 1995 and 1998 was performed to address the association between frequency of nephrology care during the 24 months before initiation of dialysis and first-year mortality after initiation of dialysis. Methods. Patient data were obtained from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Patients who started dialysis between 1995 and 1998, and were Medicare-eligible for at least 24 months before initiation of dialysis, were included. One or more nephrology visits during a month was considered a month of nephrology care (MNC). Results. Of the total 109,321 patients, only 50% had received nephrology care during the 24 months before initiation of dialysis. Overall, first-year mortality after initiation of dialysis was 36%. Cardiac disease was the major cause of mortality (46%). After adjusting for comorbidity, higher mortality was associated with increasing age (HR, 1.04 per year increase; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.04) and more frequent visits to generalists (HR, 1.009 per visit increase; 95% CI, 1.003 to 1.014) and specialists (HR, 1.012 per visit increase; 95% CI, 1.011 to 1.013). Compared to patients with ≥3 MNC in the six months before initiation of dialysis, higher mortality was observed among those with no MNC during the 24 months before initiation of dialysis (HR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.45 to 1.58), no MNC during the six months before initiation of dialysis (HR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.20 to 1.36), and one or two MNC during the six months before initiation of dialysis (HR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.18 to 1.29). Conclusion. Nephrology care before dialysis is important, and consistency of care in the immediate six months before dialysis is a predictor of mortality. Consistent nephrology care may be more important than previously thought, particularly because the frequency and severity of CKD complications increase as patients approach dialysis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was supported in part by research grants from Amgen, Inc., Thousand Oaks, California, and the Tufts-New England Medical Center Research Fund.
- Kidney failure
- Nephrology care
- Renal dialysis