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BACKGROUND: The optimal time for initiation of dialysis and which modality to choose as the starting therapy is currently unclear. This systematic review aimed to assess the recommendations across high-quality clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) related to the start of dialysis. METHODS: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, LILACS, and databases of organisations that develop CPGs between September 2008 to August 2021 for CPGs that addressed recommendations on the timing of initiation of dialysis, selection of dialysis modality, and interventions to support the decision-making process to select a dialysis modality. We used the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation instrument to assess the methodological quality of the CPGs and included only high-quality CPGs. This study is registered in PROSPERO, number CRD42018110325. RESULTS: We included 12 high-quality CPGs. Six CPGs addressed recommendations related to the timing of initiating dialysis, and all agreed on starting dialysis in the presence of symptoms or signs. Six CPGs addressed recommendations related to the selection of modality but varied greatly in their content. Nine CPGs addressed recommendations related to interventions to support the decision-making process. Eight CPGs agreed on recommended educational programs that include information about dialysis options. One CPG considered using patient decision aids a strong recommendation. LIMITATIONS: We could have missed potentially relevant guidelines since we limited our search to CPGs published from 2008, and we set up a cut-off point of 60% in domains of the rigour of development and editorial independence. CONCLUSION: High-quality CPGs related to the process of starting dialysis were consistent in initiating dialysis in the presence of symptoms or signs and offering patients education at the point of decision-making. There was variability in how CPGs addressed the issue of dialysis modality selection. CPGs should improve strategies on putting recommendations into practice and the quality of evidence to aid decision-making for patients. REGISTRATION: The protocol of this systematic review has been registered in the international prospective register of systematic reviews (PROSPERO) under the registration number: CRD CRD42018110325.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Databases, Factual, Humans, Practice Guidelines as Topic, Renal Dialysis