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Dialysis for a 101-Year-Old Patient?

The February 2013 issue of Clinical Kidney Journal has a case report from Israel describing a 101-year-old male patient with chronic kidney disease, admitted to the ICU with exacerbation of heart failure and sepsis. He experienced acute deterioration of renal function, with oliguria and acidosis. 

The patient’s healthcare proxy insisted that dialysis be initiated despite his extremely advanced age, citing the patient’s devout religious beliefs. He underwent 56 dialysis treatments over the course of ∼4 months after which he died as a result of septic and cardiogenic shock. 

The authors suggest that their case may represent “the oldest individual ever reported to start haemodialysis.” It illustrates the “ever-growing clinical and ethical challenges posed by the treatment of renal failure in the geriatric population.”  Indeed, while dialysis historically began as treatment intended for younger patients, it has, over time, increasingly been extended to treat elderly patients with a high comorbidity burden. Data on the outcomes of dialysis in these patients show that in some cases it confers no benefit and may be associated with functional decline.   

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