Dialysis withdrawal in the Netherlands between 2000 and 2019: Time trends, risk factors and centre variation

Mathijs van Oevelen, Alferso C. Abrahams, Willem Jan W. Bos, Tiny Hoekstra, Marc H. Hemmelder, Marc ten Dam, Marjolijn van Buren

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Background: Dialysis withdrawal is a common cause of death in dialysis-dependent patients. This study aims to describe dialysis withdrawal practice in The Netherlands, focussing on time trends, risk factors and centre variation. Methods: Data were retrieved from the Dutch registry of kidney replacement therapy patients. All patients who started maintenance dialysis and died in the period 2000-2019 were included. The main outcome was death after dialysis withdrawal; all other causes of death were used for comparison. Time trends were analysed as unadjusted data (proportion per year) and the year of death was included in a multivariable logistic model. Univariable and multivariable analyses were performed to identify factors associated with withdrawal. Centre variation was compared using funnel plots. Results: A total of 34 692 patients started dialysis and 18 412 patients died while on dialysis. Dialysis withdrawal was an increasingly common cause of death, increasing from 18.3% in 2000-2004 to 26.8% in 2015-2019. Of all patients withdrawing, 26.1% discontinued treatment within their first year. In multivariable analysis, increasing age, female sex, haemodialysis as a treatment modality and year of death were independent factors associated with death after dialysis withdrawal. Centre variation was large (80.7 and 57.4% within 95% control limits of the funnel plots for 2000-2009 and 2010-2019, respectively), even after adjustment for confounding factors. Conclusions: Treatment withdrawal has become the main cause of death among dialysis-dependent patients in The Netherlands, with large variations between centres. These findings emphasize the need for timely advance care planning and improving the shared decision-making process on choosing dialysis or conservative care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2112-2119
Number of pages8
JournalNephrology dialysis transplantation
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • advance care planning
  • end of life
  • end-stage renal disease
  • kidney failure
  • mortality

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