The overuse, underuse, and misuse of dialysis in ESKD patients with dementia

Aleece MacPhail, Joseph Elias Ibrahim, Deirdre Fetherstonhaugh, Vicki Levidiotis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The profile of patients on chronic dialysis has shifted. There is a growing group of older patients with comorbid dementia and ESKD, who are at risk of overuse, underuse, and misuse of dialysis. Policy is lacking to help guide treatment decisions in this group. This paper explores clinical considerations specific to patients with comorbid ESKD and dementia. These include: the impact of comorbid dementia on dialysis effectiveness and feasibility; burden of care issues that are specific to patients with dementia; and capacity, autonomy, and consent. A better understanding of these issues may help guide discussions and decision making about treatment. For some older patients with multiple comorbidities including dementia, dialysis does not provide survival or quality of life benefit compared to medical management. These patients also experience additional treatment burden due to a dementia unfriendly environment. However, exceptions may include patients who are younger, more independent, and have fewer comorbidities. Patients with dementia are often inappropriately assumed to lack capacity to participate in treatment decision making, and are at risk of having their preferences overlooked. Many patients with mild-to-moderate dementia remain capable of reporting their preferences and quality of life, and should always be involved in treatment discussions where possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490 - 496
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in Dialysis
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this