Hard choices, better outcomes: a review of shared decision-making and patient decision aids around dialysis initiation and conservative kidney management

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Purpose of review

Patients reaching end-stage kidney disease face difficult decisions, including choosing among renal replacement therapies (RRTs). With an increasingly elderly and frail population, there is growing interest in conservative kidney management (CKM) as a viable alternative to dialysis. Shared decision-making (SDM) is a patient-centered approach to these decisions, in which choices are viewed within the explicitly discussed values and preferences of the patient. Patient decision aids (PDAs) are tools designed to facilitate these discussions. The choice between dialysis and CKM is particularly complex, given the poor prognostication data for CKM. This is an emerging area for PDAs in nephrology. This review highlights care gaps around SDM for dialysis versus CKM, presents current PDAs for making choices about RRTs and CKM and discusses exciting new work around the development of novel PDAs.

Recent findings

Many PDAs have been created recently, primarily to help with decisions about RRTs. Three new PDAs are in testing phases to aid with the more complex decision of choosing between dialysis and CKM.


International nephrology communities are moving toward improved SDM with their patients and PDAs are being developed to facilitate this process.

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