CONTEXT: The international cohort of hemodialysis patients is aging and increasing in number. Nephrologists have a therapeutic relationship with their patients that may span decades. Often overlooked components of chronic disease management include symptom control and assessment of health-related quality of life (HRQoL).
OBJECTIVES: This study describes the symptom profile of a large cohort of patients with end-stage renal disease on hemodialysis in England and Ireland and evaluates how symptom burden and other factors influence quality of life scores.
METHODS: A prospective cross-sectional observational study of hemodialysis patients conducted in Ireland and England during 2011 and 2012. Two validated clinical tools were used to determine HRQoL and symptom burden. Demographic and clinical data were examined and regression analysis was used to determine associations with HRQoL scores.
RESULTS: A total of 893 patients on hemodialysis (mean [SD] age 64  years) had a high symptom burden and poor HRQoL compared to population norms. Specifically, 64% of patients reported pain (95% CI: 61-67%) and 79% reported weakness (95% CI: 75-81%). A total of forty-three percent of patients reported between six and ten symptoms in the week preceding the survey. HRQoL was significantly and independently associated with poor mobility and pain, and remained significant after adjusting for variations in clinical characteristics. Being listed on a transplant waitlist register was positively associated with HRQoL.
CONCLUSION: These findings illustrate the high symptom burden and poor HRQoL of the hemodialysis population. Emphasis during clinical reviews on pain assessment and on assessing mobility, plus interventions such as pain management and physiotherapy/occupational therapy, are practical ways for renal teams to help improve patients' quality of life.