Hemodialysis Patients May Find Virtual Aid for Depression

Kidney dialysis patients with depression may find online programs helpful in easing their symptoms, a small study suggests. 

The study included 14 hemodialysis (HD) patients with symptoms of depression. Clinical assessments were done at baseline and post-intervention. For five weeks, patients used tablets to complete online modules focused on increasing positive emotion, including noting of daily positive events, gratitude, positive reappraisal, acts of kindness, and mindfulness/meditation. 

Twelve patients completed the study. They visited the website an average of 3.5 times each week. Researchers observed large improvements in patients’ depressive symptoms, measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (15.3 vs 10.9; P = 0.04). 

About a quarter of HD patients have depression. Rosalba Hernandez, lead study researcher and a social work professor at the University of Illinois, said HD patients with depression are traditionally treated with medication. 

“However, the typical dialysis patient in the U.S. is already taking as many as 12 prescription medications daily, so many health care providers and patients are reluctant to add yet another medication to their regimen and heighten their pill burden,” she said. 

“Patients are a captive audience during their dialysis sessions, so using a tablet computer to read the material on the website, watch the videos and participate in the positive psychology exercises can help distract them from the monotony of dialysis and promote healthful adherence with the treatments,” Hernandez added. 

Hernandez said that despite the study’s small size, its findings “offer preliminary evidence that psychosocial interventions are viable alternatives to the current overreliance on prescription drugs for hemodialysis patients.” 

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Sources: Social Work in Health Care, University of Illinois