Outcomes and Cost-Effectiveness of Initiating Dialysis and Continuing Aggressive Care in Seriously Ill Hospitalized Adults
Published In: Annals of Internal Medicine, v. 127, no. 3, Aug. 1, 1997, p. 195-202
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1996
BACKGROUND: Renal failure requiring dialysis in the setting of hospitalization for serious illness is a poor prognostic sign, and dialysis and aggressive care are sometimes withheld. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the clinical outcomes and cost-effectiveness of initiating dialysis and continuing aggressive care for seriously ill hospitalized patients. DESIGN: Prospective cohort study and cost-effectiveness analysis. SETTING: Five geographically diverse teaching hospitals. PATIENTS: 490 patients (median age, 61 years; 58% women) enrolled in the Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments (SUPPORT) in whom dialysis was initiated. MEASUREMENTS: Survival, functional status, quality of life, and health care costs. Life expectancy was estimated by extrapolating survival data (up to 4.4 years of follow-up) using a declining exponential function. Utilities (quality-of-life weights) were estimated by using time-tradeoff questions. Costs were based on data from SUPPORT and published Medicare data. RESULTS: Median duration of survival was 32 days, and only 27% of patients were alive after 5 months. Survivors reported a median of one dependency in activities of daily living, and 62% rated their quality of life as good or better. Overall, the estimated cost per quality-adjusted life-year saved by initiating dialysis and continuing aggressive care rather than withholding dialysis and allowing death to occur was $128,200. For the 103 patients in the worst prognostic category, the estimated cost per quality-adjusted life-year was $274,100; for the 94 patients in the best prognostic category, the cost per quality-adjusted life-year was $61,900. CONCLUSIONS: For the few patients who survived, clinical outcomes were fairly good. With the exception of patients with the best prognoses, however, the cost-effectiveness of initiating dialysis and continuing aggressive care far exceeded $50,000 per quality-adjusted life-year, a commonly cited threshold for cost-effective care.