Dialysis withdrawal in The Netherlands between 2000 and 2019: time trends, risk factors and centre variation

M. van Oevelen*, A.C. Abrahams, W.J.W. Bos, T. Hoekstra, M.H. Hemmelder, M. ten Dam, M. van Buren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. Dialysis withdrawal is a common cause of death in dialysis-dependent patients. This study aims to describe dialysis withdrawal practice in The Netherlands, focussing on time trends, risk factors and centre variation.Methods. Data were retrieved from the Dutch registry of kidney replacement therapy patients. All patients who started maintenance dialysis and died in the period 2000-2019 were included. The main outcome was death after dialysis withdrawal; all other causes of death were used for comparison. Time trends were analysed as unadjusted data (proportion per year) and the year of death was included in a multivariable logistic model. Univariable and multivariable analyses were performed to identify factors associated with withdrawal. Centre variation was compared using funnel plots.Results. A total of 34 692 patients started dialysis and 18 412 patients died while on dialysis. Dialysis withdrawal was an increasingly common cause of death, increasing from 18.3% in 2000-2004 to 26.8% in 2015-2019. Of all patients withdrawing, 26.1% discontinued treatment within their first year. In multivariable analysis, increasing age, female sex, haemodialysis as a treatment modality and year of death were independent factors associated with death after dialysis withdrawal. Centre variation was large (80.7 and 57.4% within 95% control limits of the funnel plots for 2000-2009 and 2010-2019, respectively), even after adjustment for confounding factors.Conclusions. Treatment withdrawal has become the main cause of death among dialysis-dependent patients in The Netherlands, with large variations between centres. These findings emphasize the need for timely advance care planning and improving the shared decision-making process on choosing dialysis or conservative care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2112-2119
Number of pages8
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • advance care planning
  • end-stage renal disease
  • end of life
  • kidney failure
  • mortality
  • END


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