Elderly Patients Rely on Dialysis for Treatment of Renal Failure

Dimitrios G. Oreopoulos
Nada Dimkovic

Toronto Western Hospital,
University Health Network

The elderly (>65 years) are the fastest growing group of patients who require dialysis. In 1988, of the more than four thousand new dialysis patients, one thousand nine hundred and fifty eight were 65 years or older, giving an approximate rate of 515 new patients per million members of the population.

Once an elderly patient has developed end-stage renal disease (ESRD), his/her therapeutic options become limited to the various modes of dialysis that are available and, to a lesser degree, to renal transplantation.

Here we should mention a word of caution with regards to using serum creatinine as a guide for the point at which to begin dialysis. Because of the decrease in muscle mass that is associated with age, serum creatinine is disproportionately low for the degree of renal failure. Rather than relying on serum creatinine, either a creatinine clearance, or the Cockroft-Gault formula should be used to assess the severity of renal failure.

Although renal transplantation may be successful in the elderly person with ESRD, and they may have renal graft and patient survival rates comparable to those of younger recipients, only a small percentage (0.5-3%) of these patients are undergoing transplant procedures. The main reason for this is the shortage of donor kidneys.