Kidney Transplant Clinicians’ Perceptions of Palliative Care for Patients With Failing Allografts in the US: A Mixed Methods Study

Naoka Murakami, Amanda J. Reich, Katherine He, Samantha L. Gelfand, Richard E. Leiter, Kate Sciacca, Joel T. Adler, Emily Lu, Song C. Ong, Beatrice P. Concepcion, Neeraj Singh, Haris Murad, Prince Anand, Sarah J. Ramer, Darshana M. Dadhania, Krista L. Lentine, Joshua R. Lakin, Tarek Alhamad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Rationale & Objective: Kidney transplant patients with failing allografts have a physical and psychological symptom burden as well as high morbidity and mortality. Palliative care is underutilized in this vulnerable population. We described kidney transplant clinicians’ perceptions of palliative care to delineate their perceived barriers to and facilitators of providing palliative care to this population. Study Design: National explanatory sequential mixed methods study including an online survey and semistructured interviews. Setting & Participants: Kidney transplant clinicians in the United States surveyed and interviewed from October 2021 to March 2022. Analytical Approach: Descriptive summary of survey responses, thematic analysis of qualitative interviews, and mixed methods integration of data. Results: A total of 149 clinicians completed the survey, and 19 completed the subsequent interviews. Over 90% of respondents agreed that palliative care can be helpful for patients with a failing kidney allograft. However, 46% of respondents disagreed that all patients with failing allografts benefit from palliative care, and two-thirds thought that patients would not want serious illness conversations. More than 90% of clinicians expressed concern that transplant patients and caregivers would feel scared or anxious if offered palliative care. The interviews identified three main themes: (1) transplant clinicians’ unique sense of personal and professional responsibility was a barrier to palliative care engagement, (2) clinicians’ uncertainty regarding the timing of palliative care collaboration would lead to delayed referral, and (3) clinicians felt challenged by factors related to patients’ cultural backgrounds and identities, such as language differences. Many comments reflected an unfamiliarity with the broad scope of palliative care beyond end-of-life care. Limitations: Potential selection bias. Conclusions: Our study suggests that multiple barriers related to patients, clinicians, health systems, and health policies may pose challenges to the delivery of palliative care for patients with failing kidney transplants. This study illustrates the urgent need for ongoing efforts to optimize palliative care delivery models dedicated to kidney transplant patients, their families, and the clinicians who serve them. Plain-Language Summary: Kidney transplant patients experience physical and psychological suffering in the context of their illnesses that may be amenable to palliative care. However, palliative care is often underutilized in this population. In this mixed-methods study, we surveyed 149 clinicians across the United States, and 19 of them completed semistructured interviews. Our study results demonstrate that several patient, clinician, system, and policy factors need to be addressed to improve palliative care delivery to this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-182.e1
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Allograft failure
  • kidney transplant
  • mixed methods study
  • palliative care


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