acute renal failure, renal replacement therapy, intensive care


Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment | Bioethics and Medical Ethics


A 69 year-old female was receiving renal replacement therapy (RRT) for acute renal failure (ARF) in an intensive care unit (ICU). Consultation was requested from the palliative medicine service to facilitate a shared decision-making process regarding goals of care.

Clinician responsibility in shared decision-making includes the formulation and expression of a prognostic assessment providing the necessary perspective for a spokesperson to match patient values with treatment options. For this patient, ARF requiring RRT in the ICU was used as a focal point for preparing a prognostic assessment. A prognostic assessment should include the outcomes of most importance to a discussion of goals of care: mortality risk and survivor functional status, in this case including renal recovery. A systematic review of the literature was conducted to document published data regarding these outcomes for adult patients receiving RRT for ARF in the ICU. 41 studies met the inclusion criteria. The combined mean values for short-term mortality, long-term mortality, renal-function recovery of short- term survivors, and renal-function recovery of long-term survivors were 51.7%, 68.6%, 82.0%, and 88.4% respectively.

This case example illustrates a process for formulating and expressing a prognostic assessment for an ICU patient requiring RRT for ARF. Data from the literature review provides baseline information that requires adjustment to reflect specific patient circumstances. The nature of the acute primary process, comorbidities, and severity of illness are key modifiers. Finally, the prognostic assessment is expressed during a family meeting using recommended principles of communication.

Original Citation

Johnson, R. F., & Gustin, J. (2011). Acute renal failure requiring renal replacement therapy in the intensive care unit: Impact on prognostic assessment for shared decision making. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(7), 883-889. doi:10.1089/jpm.2010.0452