Compared with long and frequent home hemodialysis, kidney transplantation may allow kidney failure patients to be successfully treated and to live longer, but it may also increase their risk of being hospitalized within the first year, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The results support the need to encourage transplantation for potential candidates who are receiving home hemodialysis, but they also indicate that long and frequent home hemodialysis provides good outcomes for patients, the study authors said.

Karthik Tennankore, MD, FRCPC, from Dalhousie University, Christopher Chan, MD, FRCPC, from the University of Toronto, and their colleagues conducted a study to compare long and frequent home hemodialysis (at least 16 hours/week) with kidney transplantation. Their study included 173 home hemodialysis patients and 1,517 transplant recipients (673 living donor, 642 standard criteria donor, and 202 expanded criteria donor recipients) who received care between 2000 and 2011 in a Canadian medical center.

Among the major findings:

  • Kidney transplant patients had a 55% to 61% (depending on organ donor type) reduced risk of treatment failure or death during the study compared with patients on long and frequent home hemodialysis.
  • The risk of being admitted to the hospital and spending a longer time in the hospital was higher for some kidney transplant patients up to a year after transplantation, but lower in the long term compared with dialysis patients.

“This study tells us that we should continue to promote kidney transplantation to eligible patients receiving longer, more frequent home hemodialysis even if they are doing well on their dialysis treatment,” said Tennankore. “This study also tells us that patients who are receiving this type of dialysis still have very good health outcomes."

“The gap in clinical outcomes between all forms of kidney transplantation and the putative best forms of dialysis is large," said Thomas Golper, MD, and Rachel Fissell, MD, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in an accompanying editorial. "This gap is made even more evident in the report by Tennankore et al,” they wrote.

The article, entitled “Survival and Hospitalization for Intensive Home Hemodialysis Compared with Kidney Transplantation,” and the editorial, entitled “Mind the Gap,” appear online at http://jasn.asnjournals.org/.