CA Douglas
Journal Issue: 
Volume 44: Issue 3: 2014



Over the past three decades there has been a dramatic rise in the number of patients with advanced chronic kidney disease. The fastest expanding group receiving dialysis has been the elderly. However, for those patients who are very elderly with co-morbidity, dialysis may not offer a survival advantage. Therefore, active conservative management is a growing service offered by many renal units in the UK and focuses on non-dialytic correction of fluid and electrolyes, management of renal anaemia, and assessment and management of symptoms.

The five-year survival of a patient over 75 years of age starting dialysis is 20% and if a patient is over 75 years, has co-morbidity, or a poor performance status, dialysis may not offer any survival advantage. Whether a patient is managed by dialysis or by conservative management the symptom burden suffered is high. These symptoms are under-recognised and often managed poorly because of increased drug toxicity in renal failure. This complex group of patients require close working between renal, palliative care, medicine for the elderly, and community teams, to allow best quality of life and end of life care. This review describes some of the challenges in providing Advanced Care Planning for dialysis and conservatively managed patients, highlights the symptom burden of patients with advanced chronic kidney disease, and offers guidance in how to manage the symptoms effectively.