Background: Hemodialysis access is a challenging problem in patients with exhausted dialysis access sites of their upper extremities. Femoral arterio-venous polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) graft is often necessary. The safety and efficacy of cuffed tunneled catheters at the femoral site for long-term hemodialysis has not been extensively studied.
Methods: We inserted 14 cuffed-tunneled femoral catheters in 11 hemodialysis patients with exhausted dialysis access sites of their upper extremities. Access survival and risk of infection were compared with the 11 femoral PTFE grafts in 10 patients of our center during the same period. The choice of dialysis access was determined by the individual nephrologist. Access survival was defined as the achievement of a blood flow rate of at least 180 ml/min.
Results: The median survival of tunneled femoral catheter and PTFE graft were 166 days and 560 days respectively (log-rank test, p = 0.33). Seven of the 14 tunneled femoral catheter remained in use 3 months after insertion. The incidence of catheter- or graft-related infection was 0.38 and 0.23 episodes per 100 catheter/graft days for tunneled femoral catheters and PTFE graft respectively (p = 0.6). Five tunneled catheters and one PTFE graft had to be removed because of infection. Blood flow rates achieved were comparable between tunneled femoral catheter and PTFE graft.
Conclusions: Our preliminary data suggest that the cuffed tunneled femoral catheter has reasonable access survival and an acceptable risk of infection. It may provide a safe and effective access for long-term hemodialysis patients with exhausted access in their upper extremities, especially high risk patients who are not suitable for femoral PTFE graft creation.