BACKGROUND - Acute renal failure (ARF) is associated strongly with in-hospital mortality and morbidity. Previous clinical trials of ARF have been hampered by the heterogeneous population affected, difficulty defining ARF, delays in identification of ARF, and significant comorbid conditions, among other factors.
METHODS - The Program to Improve Care in Acute Renal Disease (PICARD) phase I was a multicenter cohort study aimed to identify clinical characteristics and practice patterns associated with adverse and favorable outcomes in patients with ARF in intensive care units. Although PICARD used no interventions, signed informed consent was required of all study subjects or their proxies.
RESULTS - Signed informed consent was obtained in 645 of 1,243 ARF episodes (52%). The fraction of patients not enrolled and reasons for non-enrollment varied widely across the 5 PICARD centers. Refusal by potential study subjects was infrequent, although the absence of family or proxy (15%) and refusal by family or proxy (18%) accounted for large fractions of non-enrolled subjects. Death (23%) and discharge (11%) before study personnel could evaluate patients were additional important reasons for non-enrollment.
CONCLUSION - Understanding reasons for non-enrollment may help rationalize mortality and other outcome differences seen in clinical trials and cohort studies that require informed consent compared with historic reports of "all comers" with ARF.