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The path to a paradigm shift in hemodialysis

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About 1 out of 4 American conventional dialysis patients die in the first year and 3 out of 5 die within 5 years with no favorable trend in sight. Largely ignored in practice is the evidence accumulated over decades that longer, more frequent dialysis can immediately slash this grim result in half or more. Pierratos has called for a paradigm shift—a disruptive change—in dialysis practice from conventional treatment to daily nocturnal dialysis, performed at home, to realize this dramatic improvement. We examine here how such a paradigm shift might be brought about and suggest that changes in 3 perspectives must occur. First, new dialysis guidelines must be recast from the old goal of minimally adequate to a new goal of best possible. Second, the body of dialysis research must be interpreted through the lens of best possible patient survival and well being, and the near-impossibility of demonstrating dialysis survival advantage through randomized clinical trials must be acknowledged. Finally, dialysis modality must be seen as, most importantly, a survival and well-being choice, not merely a “Lifestyle” choice; hence, it must be the nondelegatable responsibility of the physician, not dialysis center personnel, to advise and prescribe. Many old perspectives, which might stand in the way of this sorely needed paradigm shift are also examined. These old perspectives make up a fabric of excuses that has delayed—and, if not discarded, will continue to delay—progress toward a survival and well-being outlook for dialysis patients just as favorable as might be achieved through kidney transplant.
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Keywords: Hemodialysis; daily dialysis; end stage renal disease; home dialysis; nocturnal dialysis; stage 5 chronic kidney disease

Document Type: Opinion

Affiliations: Saratoga, California, USA

Publication date: 01 January 2010

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