Friday, May 7, 2010

Hyperkalemia as an indication for dialysis

A few weeks ago we admitted a patient who has been approaching ESRD for a number of years. Most of her medical care had been provided in the hospital as she bounced from admission to admission. Though we tried to get her into our CKD clinic she always failed to show up. You can track the progression of her CKD from hospitalization to hospitalization with a gradually increasing baseline creatinine.

On this most recent admission, she came in with the triple 8s:
  • Hemoglobin 8.8
  • Creatinine 8.1
  • Potassium 8.6
Here is her initial EKG with that potassium:

The most remarkable part of the EKG was the profound bradycardia, heart rate of 30. Also she has beautifully peaked T waves. I'm surprised by the lack of a prolonged QRS. She had a great response to medical management with her K falling to the 5s. The repeat EKG was rather unremarkable.

The patient received dialysis on the day of admission and the following day I set her up for chronic dialysis. Whenever a patient progresses to chronic dialysis from CKD I always try to remind myself of how rare this event is. As nephrologists it is too common and seeing that unfortunate outcome alters our perception so that we may overestimate its frequency. End-stage renal disease is an exceptional, not a routine outcome of CKD. The vast majority of patients with CKD ultimatly expire of something other than renal failure. Let's review three important studies to emphasize this:

Keith et al looked at the five-year outcome of 28,000 patients with chronic kidney disease. He divided them by CKD stage and found that of the 11,278 patients with CKD stage 3, only 1.1% of then received dialysis and 0.2% received a transplant. A quarter of them died (24.3%). The authors summarized the results:
The likelihood of renal replacement therapy, either transplant or dialysis, was near zero (≤1.3%) for patients in all stages except stage 4, where 2.3% ± 1.1% of patients received a transplant and 17.6% ± 2.7% had dialysis initiated.

Eriksen et al found similar results in a 10-year study, with a 4% risk of renal failure for patients with CKD stage three compared to a 51% risk of death.

And lastly, O'Hare, et al's VA study that looked explicitly at renal failure and the competing outcome of death. They asked, "At what age and GFR is renal failure more likely than death?". Obviously, at a younger age, when death is a more remote possibility, a higher GFR will have the time to deteriorate to the point of requiring renal replacement therapy. The results showed surprisingly low GFRs:

To read the graph, find your patients age and then line it up with their GFR. If the intersection is in the black, they are more likely to die, if it is in the grey then hello Mr. Fresenius, nice to meet you Ms. Tacrolimus. Note, that in a 75 year old with a GFRas low as 16 mL/min, death is still more likely than ESRD.

So, the next time you see a patient initiating dialysis after a long run of chronic kidney disease don't be frustrated by the fact that they didn't do enough to prevent this, be amazed that they survived to this outcome. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...