There are substantial, unexplained racial disparities in whether dialysis patients use hospice care, according to a study presented at ASN Kidney Week.

Robert Foley, MD (University of Minnesota) and his colleagues examined files from the United States Renal Data System to characterize end-of-life care for deaths occurring between 2006 and 2011 among dialysis patients.

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During this five-year period, the proportion of deaths in hospice increased from 14.7% to 24.2%, and use of hospice increased among all age groups. Hospice use varied substantially among races, though. Compared with whites, African Americans and Native Americans were 44% less likely to use hospice, and Asians were 43% less likely to do so.

“While increasingly considered as an option for end of care treatment in dialysis patients, racial disparities are profound,” said Foley. “These findings highlight the need for high-quality research into the benefits, if any, of dialysis therapy in older and sicker segments of society.”