Symptom clusters in chronic kidney disease and their association with people’s ability to perform usual activities

Currie Moore, Shalini Santhakumaran, Glen P. Martin, Thomas J. Wilkinson, Fergus J. Caskey, Winnie Magadi, Rachel Gair, Alice C. Smith, David Wellsted, Sabine N. van der Veer, Boris Bikbov (Editor)

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Background: People living with a long-term condition, such as chronic kidney disease (CKD), often suffer from multiple symptoms simultaneously, making symptom management challenging. This study aimed to identify symptom clusters in adults with CKD across treatment groups and investigate their association with people’s ability to perform their usual activities. 
Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of both cross-sectional and longitudinal data collected as part of a national service improvement programme in 14 kidney centres in England, UK. This data included symptom severity (17 items, POS-S Renal) and the extent to which people had problems performing their usual activities (single item, EQ-5D-5L). We categorised data by treatment group: haemodialysis (n = 1,462), transplantation (n = 866), peritoneal dialysis (n = 127), or CKD without kidney replacement therapy (CKD non-KRT; n = 684). We used principal component analysis to identify symptom clusters per treatment group, and proportional odds models to assess the association between clusters and usual activities. 
Results: Overall, clusters related to: lack of energy and mobility; gastrointestinal; skin; and mental health. Across groups, the ‘lack of energy and mobility’ clusters were associated with having problems with usual activities, with odds ratios (OR) ranging between 1.24 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.21–1.57) for haemodialysis and 1.56 for peritoneal dialysis (95% CI, 1.28–1.90). This association was confirmed longitudinally in haemodialysis (n = 399) and transplant (n = 249) subgroups.
Implications: Our findings suggest that healthcare professionals should consider routinely assessing symptoms in the ‘lack of energy & mobility’ cluster in all people with CKD, regardless of whether they volunteer this information; not addressing these symptoms is likely to be related to them having problems with performing usual activities. Future studies should explore why symptoms within clusters commonly co-occur and how they interrelate. This will inform the development of cluster-level symptom management interventions with enhanced potential to improve outcomes for people with CKD.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0264312
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Early online date2 Mar 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2022


  • Research Article
  • Medicine and health sciences
  • Biology and life sciences
  • Research and analysis methods
  • Physical sciences


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