Martin Gallagher and colleagues examine the long-term outcomes of renal replacement therapy (RRT) dosing in patients with acute kidney injury randomized to normal vs. augmented RRT.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
The incidence of acute kidney injury (AKI) is increasing globally and it is much more common than end-stage kidney disease. AKI is associated with high mortality and cost of hospitalisation. Studies of treatments to reduce this high mortality have used differing renal replacement therapy (RRT) modalities and have not shown improvement in the short term. The reported long-term outcomes of AKI are variable and the effect of differing RRT modalities upon them is not clear. We used the prolonged follow-up of a large clinical trial to prospectively examine the long-term outcomes and effect of RRT dosing in patients with AKI.
Methods and Findings
We extended the follow-up of participants in the Randomised Evaluation of Normal vs. Augmented Levels of RRT (RENAL) study from 90 days to 4 years after randomization. Primary and secondary outcomes were mortality and requirement for maintenance dialysis, respectively, assessed in 1,464 (97%) patients at a median of 43.9 months (interquartile range [IQR] 30.0–48.6 months) post randomization. A total of 468/743 (63%) and 444/721 (62%) patients died in the lower and higher intensity groups, respectively (risk ratio [RR] 1.04, 95% CI 0.96–1.12, p = 0.49). Amongst survivors to day 90, 21 of 411 (5.1%) and 23 of 399 (5.8%) in the respective groups were treated with maintenance dialysis (RR 1.12, 95% CI 0.63–2.00, p = 0.69). The prevalence of albuminuria among survivors was 40% and 44%, respectively (p = 0.48). Quality of life was not different between the two treatment groups. The generalizability of these findings to other populations with AKI requires further exploration.
Patients with AKI requiring RRT in intensive care have high long-term mortality but few require maintenance dialysis. Long-term survivors have a heavy burden of proteinuria. Increased intensity of RRT does not reduce mortality or subsequent treatment with dialysis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Throughout life, the kidneys perform the essential task of filtering waste products (from the normal breakdown of tissues and from food) and excess water from the blood to make urine. Chronic kidney disease (caused, for example, by diabetes) gradually destroys the kidneys' filtration units (the nephrons), eventually leading to life-threatening end-stage kidney disease. However, the kidneys can also stop working suddenly because of injury, infection, or poisoning. Acute kidney injury (AKI) is much more common than end-stage kidney disease and its incidence is increasing worldwide. In the US, for example, the number of hospitalizations that included an AKI diagnosis rose from 4,000 in 1996 to 23,000 in 2008. Moreover, nearly half of patients with AKI will die shortly after the condition develops. Symptoms of AKI include changes in urination, swollen feet and ankles, and tiredness. Treatments for AKI aim to prevent fluid and waste build up in the body and treat the underlying cause (e.g., severe infection or dehydration) while allowing the kidneys time to recover. In some patients, it is sufficient to limit the fluid intake and to reduce waste build-up by eating a diet that is low in protein, salt, and potassium. Other patients need renal replacement therapy (RRT), life-supporting treatments such as hemodialysis and hemofiltration, two processes that clean the blood by filtering it outside the body.
Why Was This Study Done?
The long-term outcomes of AKI (specifically, death and chronic kidney disease) and the effects of different RRT modalities on these outcomes are unclear. A recent controlled trial that randomly assigned patients with AKI who were managed in intensive care units (ICUs) to receive two different intensities of continuous hemodiafiltration (a combination of hemodialysis and hemofiltration) found no difference in all-cause mortality (death) at 90 days. Here, the researchers extend the follow-up of this trial (the Randomized Evaluation of Normal vs. Augmented Levels of renal replacement therapy [RENAL] study) to investigate longer-term mortality, the variables that predict mortality, treatment with long-term dialysis (an indicator of chronic kidney disease), and functional outcomes in patients with AKI treated with different intensities of continuous RRT.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For the Prolonged Outcomes Study of RENAL (POST-RENAL), the researchers extended the follow-up of the RENAL participants up to 4 years. Over an average follow-up of 43.9 months, 63% of patients in the lower intensity treatment group died compared to 62% of patients in the higher intensity group. Overall, a third of patients who survived to 90 days died during the extended follow-up. Among the survivors to day 90, 5.1% and 5.8% of patients in the lower and higher intensity groups, respectively, were treated with maintenance dialysis during the extended follow-up. Among survivors who consented to analysis, 40% and 44% of patients in the lower and higher intensity groups, respectively, had albuminuria (protein in the urine, an indicator of kidney damage). Patients in both groups had a similar quality life (determined through telephone interviews). Finally, increasing age, APACHE III score (a scoring system that predicts the survival of patients in ICU), and serum creatinine level (an indicator of kidney function) at randomization were all predictors of long-term mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that patients with AKI in ICUs who require RRT have a high long-term mortality. They show that few survivors require maintenance dialysis for chronic kidney disease but that there is a substantial rate of albuminuria among survivors despite relative preservation of kidney function. The findings also suggest that the intensity of RRT has no significant effect on mortality or the need for dialysis. Because these findings were obtained in a randomized controlled trial, they may not be generalizable to other patient populations. Moreover, although data on mortality and maintenance dialysis were available for all the trial participants, clinical and biochemical outcomes were only available for some participants and may not be representative of all the participants. Despite these study limitations, these findings suggest that survivors of AKI may be at a high risk of death or of developing chronic kidney disease. Survivors of AKI are, therefore, at high risk of further illness and long-term albuminuria reduction strategies may offer a therapeutic intervention for this group of patients.
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001601.
The US National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse provides information about the kidneys and about all aspects of kidney disease and its treatment; the US National Kidney Disease Education Program provides resources to help improve the understanding, detection, and management of kidney disease (in English and Spanish)
The Mayo Clinic provides information for patients about acute kidney injury
Wikipedia has a page on acute kidney injury (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The not-for-profit UK National Kidney Federation provides support and information for patients with kidney disease and for their carers, including a link to a video about acute kidney injury
World Kidney Day, a joint initiative between the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF), aims to raise awareness about kidneys and kidney disease; its website provides information about acute kidney injury
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a pages about acute kidney failure and about renal dialysis
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently published new guidelines on the treatment of acute kidney injury; a clinical practice guideline for acute kidney injury produced by KDIGO (a not-for-profit organization that aims to improve the care and outcomes of kidney disease patients worldwide through the development and implementation of global clinical practice guidelines) is available; the Acute Kidney Injury app provides a fast and simple way to explore guidelines on the diagnosis, prevention, and management of AKI