Mortality in dialysis patients: analysis of the causes of death.
The objective of this study was to identify the causes of death in maintenance dialysis patients who survived at least 90 days and were monitored during a 16-year period. Of 532 patients starting dialysis, 222 died. The causes of death were grouped into six categories: cardiac, infectious, withdrawal from dialysis, sudden, vascular, and "other." The greatest number of deaths were due to infections, followed by withdrawal from dialysis, cardiac, sudden death, vascular, and other. The risk of dying increased for the first 4 years of dialysis, decreased in years 5 through 10, and had a second increase at 11 years. The mortality during the first 4 years consisted largely of infectious and cardiac deaths. The late peak of deaths was mainly due to infections and withdrawal from dialysis. Overall, infections accounted for more than 36% of all deaths. Withdrawal occurred in 21.2% of the patients and was most common in patients over age 61. Notably, cardiac deaths accounted for only 14.4% of all deaths and no patient died from a cardiac cause after surviving on dialysis more than 8.5 years. We conclude that infection is the leading cause of death in our dialysis patient population. Withdrawal from dialysis was a common cause of death, especially in older patients. Cardiac mortality was not as frequent as anticipated and occurred mainly in patients on dialysis less than 4 years, suggesting that it is the result of preexisting disease.