Functional independence, access to kidney transplantation and waitlist mortality

Nadia M. Chu, Stephanie Sison, Abimereki D. Muzaale, Christine E. Haugen, Jacqueline M. Garonzik-Wang, Daniel C. Brennan, Silas P. Norman, Dorry L. Segev, Mara McAdams-Demarco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Approximately half of the patients who progress to end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) and undergo dialysis develop difficulties carrying out essential self-care activities, leading to institutionalization and mortality. It is unclear what percentage of kidney transplant (KT) candidates, a group of ESKD patients selected to be healthy enough to withstand transplantation, are functionally independent and whether independence is associated with better access to KT and reduced waitlist mortality. Methods: We studied a prospective cohort of 3168 ESKD participants (January 2009 to June 2018) who self-reported functional independence in more basic self-care Activities of Daily Living (ADL) (needing help with eating, dressing, walking, grooming, toileting and bathing) and more complex instrumental ADL (IADL) (needing help using a phone, shopping, cooking, housework, washing, using transportation, managing medications and managing money). We estimated adjusted associations between functional independence (separately) and listing (Cox), waitlist mortality (competing risks) and transplant rates (Poisson). Results: At KT evaluation, 92.4% were independent in ADLs, but only 68.5% were independent in IADLs. Functionally independent participants had a higher chance of listing for KT [ADL: adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) = 1.55, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.30-1.87; IADL: aHR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.26-1.52]. Among KT candidates, ADL independence was associated with lower waitlist mortality risk [adjusted subdistribution HR (aSHR) = 0.66, 95% CI 0.44-0.98] and higher rate of KT [adjusted incidence rate ratio (aIRR) = 1.58, 95% CI 1.12-2.22]; the same was not observed for IADL independence (aSHR = 0.86, 95% CI 0.65-1.12; aIRR = 1.01, 95% CI 0.97-1.19). Conclusions: Functional independence in more basic self-care ADL was associated with better KT access and lower waitlist mortality. Nephrologists, geriatricians and transplant surgeons should screen KT candidates for ADLs, and identify interventions to promote independence and improve waitlist outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-877
Number of pages8
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • functional performance
  • outcomes
  • renal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology
  • Transplantation


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