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Behavioral Therapy Aids Dialysis Depression

Behavioral Therapy Aids Dialysis DepressionNew research may significantly improve the quality of life for individuals who must receive dialysis for kidney disease.

Although depression is common among individuals on dialysis for kidney disease, behavioral therapy can significantly improve their quality of life.

Many patients with kidney disease must sit through hemodialysis — the process of removing blood, purifying it, and returning it to the body — for several hours, multiple times per week.

The procedure exacts both a physical and mental toll on patients, and not surprisingly, a significant proportion of patients (20-30%) become depressed. Depression in these patients is associated with hospitalizations, other diseases, and even mortality.

Researchers now report the results of the first clinical trial of a psychological intervention in hemodialysis patients who are depressed. Ricardo Sesso, MD and his colleagues at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo, Brazil studied 85 patients with end-stage renal disease who were on chronic hemodialysis and had been diagnosed with depression.

Half of the patients underwent three months of weekly 90-minute sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy led by a trained psychologist. Sessions focused on issues related to kidney disease treatment and its effects on daily life, depression and coping techniques, thinking and cognitive remodeling techniques, relaxation activities, social behavior abilities, etc.

The other half of patients in the study received usual treatment offered in the dialysis clinic, without behavioral interventions. All patients filled out quality-of-life questionnaires at the start of the study and again after three and nine months of follow up.

The investigators found that after three months of intervention, the group receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy had a significant improvement in depressive symptoms, cognitive function, and quality-of-life scores when compared to the control group. These differences also persisted after six months of intervention.

During this period, patients received once a month maintenance sessions. The authors concluded that cognitive-behavioral therapy—a relatively cheap, harmless, and practical intervention—is an effective strategy to treat depression in patients with kidney disease.

“No other randomized trial using psychological or medical intervention with drugs has shown to be effective or has been published in this regard,” said Sesso.

The finding was presented in a paper at the American Society of Nephrology’s 41st Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Source: American Society of Nephrology (ASN)

Behavioral Therapy Aids Dialysis Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Behavioral Therapy Aids Dialysis Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 16, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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