It's a very scary time when you or someone you care about faces the final stage of kidney disease. The question "how long do people live on kidney dialysis?" can bring about a very sobering reality. But the answer depends upon a wide range of variables.
Those undergoing kidney dialysis treatment possess a very general, average life expectancy of four years. But many scenarios come into play with some patients enjoying a bountiful life for as long as 25 years.
"We do not yet know how long patients on dialysis will live," says the National Kidney Foundation. "We think that some dialysis patients may live as long as people without kidney failure."
However, there are more direct statistics available. Physicians estimate a patient's likelihood of survival by looking at the percentage chance of living one, two, five and 10 years after beginning treatment. This sort of formula is used among many diseases including heart disease, cancer and dialysis patients.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports the dialysis survival rate at close to 80 percent through one year, 64 percent through two years, 33 percent after five years and 10 percent through 10 years.
"Another important fact is that out of the 20 percent of dialysis patients who die in the first year, 50 percent die in the first three months. There could be a number of reasons for this such as how old the patient is, how sick they were when they started dialysis and what other problems and illnesses they have," say Andy Stein and Janet Wild in their book Kidney Dialysis and Transplants: The At Your Fingertips Guide. "People with high blood pressure or diabetes are not as likely to live 10 years on dialysis as those with either polycystic kidney disease or glomerulonephritis."
Indeed, the cause of the kidney failure plays a huge role in the survival rate for those on dialysis.
Polycystic kidney disease: 94 percent survival through year one, 70 percent through year five and 42 percent after 10 years.
Glomerulonephritis: 88 percent survival through year one, 58 through year five and 37 percent after 10 years.
Obstructive Nephropathy: 82 percent through year one, 46 percent through year five and 21 percent after 10 years.
Unknown: Seventy-six percent through year one, forty-one percent through year five and nineteen percent after ten years.
High Blood Pressure: 77 percent through year one, 33 percent through year five and 14 after 10 years.
Diabetes: 71 percent through year one, 29 percent through year five and 11 percent after 10 years.
As one would expect, younger people survive longer on dialysis than older patients. Eighty-eight percent of those under the age of 20 will live through five years of dialysis. Seventy-one percent of patients between 20 and 44 years old will survive through five years, 44 percent of those between 45 and 64 will live through five years of treatment, and just 21 percent of dialysis patients between 65 and 74 years of age will survive through five years. The number drops to 10 percent for those over 74 years-old.