Background: More older patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are starting dialysis. Elderly patients often prefer treatments that focus on quality of life rather than primarily extending life and a substantial group of elderly dialysis patients might regret their decision to start dialysis. Healthcare provider and patient-related factors may be involved. Our objective was to measure the percentage of patients in the Netherlands who regretted their decision to start dialysis.
Methods: Cross-sectional Dutch national survey of dialysis patients. A short questionnaire about age, satisfaction with pre-dialysis education, present treatment, dialysis initiation, regret about decision to start dialysis and key figures in decision-making was developed.
Results: A total of 1371 questionnaires were returned for analysis from 28 dialysis units. Of the patients 7.4% regretted their decision to start dialysis, 50.5% reported the nephrologist’s opinion to be crucial in decision-making and these patients experienced more regret than those who made the decision themselves (odds ratio, OR: 1.81). When family influenced decision-making more regret was experienced compared with those who decided themselves (OR: 2.73). Older age was associated with less regret (p = 0.02) and higher treatment satisfaction (p < 0.001); 52.8% of participants described dialysis initiation as being sudden.
Conclusion: The majority of patients did not regret their decision to start dialysis. Older patients were more satisfied with their treatment and felt less regret. The nephrologist’s and the family’s opinion were directional in decision-making on ESRD treatment options and were associated with more regret, especially in younger patients.