By Peter Laird, MD
The Annual Dialysis Conference is the best place to watch and learn about optimal dialysis trends not only in America but from around the globe. The tone of the conference is often highlighted in the key note address by one of many leading researchers and dialysis advocates. Past key note addresses in prior conferences still resonate in the lecture halls as data and information is not only presented but at times debated with great passion. Carl Kjellstrand spoke with great conviction two years ago in his keynote address against randomized controlled dialysis trials (RCT) and how they were not needed nor ethical in dialysis patients with over 40 years of solid evidence from observational studies showing great benefit of longer and more frequent dialysis schedules.
The legacy of Dr. Belding Scribner's dedication to bringing about optimal dialysis in America is often the subtext of the keynote address. Perhaps no where else is optimal dialysis championed as eloquently than at the Annual Dialysis Conference put on by the University of Missouri for over 30 years. I recently reviewed the upcoming program for the ADC meeting in February 2011 in Phoenix and found that the keynote address will come from Dr. Glenn Chertow. Dr. Chertow is a renowned nephrologist now at Stanford University and researcher involved in many of the dominant studies of the last two decades.
The HEMO study is a randomized, controlled trial that showed no benefit to high flux, high intensity hemodialysis maximizing Kt/V in conventional hemodialysis regimens. The result of this study and it's negative outcome led to questioning of the entire optimal dialysis strategy that was just gaining ground at that time with the the results of the Toronto group's nocturnal dialysis program. Dr. Chertow vocally championed the cause of further randomized and controlled trials to prove all aspects of optimal dialysis before adopting more frequent and longer duration sessions in America. In fact, DSEN has written several posts (here, here and here) in opposition to his dependence on randomized and controlled trials before going forward with the same type of programs that are already used with great success in Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Dr. Chertow's upcoming keynote address is based on another study published in Kidney International earlier this year titled: Shorter dialysis times are associated with higher mortality among incident hemodialysis patients. The interesting aspect of this study is not only the astounding conclusion that shortened dialysis times less than 4 hours/session resulted in over 42% increased mortality, but that the conclusions were obtained not from a RCT, but from an observational trial. The simple fact that the Keynote address is by Dr. Chertow using an observational trial and not waiting for confirmation from a RCT is in my opinion big news for the dialysis industry.
Are the winds of time changing in the American dialysis community? Is this also prognostication of the results of the soon to be released Frequent Hemodialysis Network studies on short daily hemodialysis as well as daily nocturnal dialysis in which Dr. Chertow is a principle investigator? Perhaps my optimism for implementing optimal dialysis is overwhelming me with hope, or perhaps we are about to experience the paradigm shift that Mel Hodge wrote about so eloquently earlier this year. The path to a paradigm shift in hemodialysis:
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.
Whatever the outcome of Dr. Chertow's keynote address, I believe that a true paradigm shift is in the making. The standard of dialysis care can no longer be that of minimum standards but instead that of maximizing patient survival and rehabilitation which are precisely the goals of therapy long advocated by Dr. Scribner. It is time to come full circle and realize that the pioneers of dialysis did it right by focusing on patient rehabilitation as the objective measure of dialysis adequacy instead of reliance on the laboratory based Kt/V. Dr. Chertow's keynote address on length of dialysis sessions is a welcome addition to the Annual Dialysis Conference not only for the data and evidence that he shall present, but more importantly because of the underlying message that he will send loud and clear in presenting evidence from an observational study as the basis of the 2011 ADC keynote address.