Background: A direct broad-based comparison of vascular access use and survival in Europe (EUR) and the United States (US) has not been performed previously. Case series reports suggest that vascular access practices differ substantially in the US and EUR. We report on a representative study (DOPPS) which has used the same data collection protocol for> 6400 hemodialysis (HD) patients to compare vascular access use at 145 US dialysis units and 101 units in five EUR countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom).
Methods: Logistic analysis evaluated factors associated with native arteriovenous fistula (AVF) versus graft use or permanent access versus catheter use for prevalent and incident HD patients. Times to failure for AVF and graft were analyzed using Cox proportional hazards regression.
Results: AVF was used by 80% of EUR and 24% of US prevalent patients, and was significantly associated with younger age, male gender, lower body mass index, non-diabetic status, lack of peripheral vascular disease, and no angina. After adjusting for these factors, AVF versus graft use was still much higher in EUR than US (AOR=21, P < 0.0001). AVF use within facilities varied from 0 to 87% (median 21%) in the US, and 39 to 100% (median 83%) in EUR. For patients who were new to HD, access use was: 66% AVF in EUR versus 15% in US (AOR=39, P < 0.0001), 31% catheters in EUR vs. 60% in US, and 2% grafts in EUR vs. 24% in US. In addition, 25% of EUR and 46% of US incident patients did not have a permanent access placed prior to starting HD. In EUR, 84% of new HD patients had seen a nephrologist for> 30 days prior to ESRD compared with 74% in the US (P < 0.0001); pre-ESRD care was associated with increased odds of AVF versus graft use (AOR=1.9, P=0.01). New HD patients had a 1.8-fold greater odds (P=0.002) of starting HD with a permanent access if a facility's typical time from referral to access placement was < or =2 weeks. AVF use when compared to grafts was substantially lower (AOR=0.61, P=0.04) when surgery trainees assisted or performed access placements. When used as a patient's first access, AVF survival was superior to grafts regarding time to first failure (RR=0.53, P=0.0002), and AVF survival was longer in EUR compared with the US (RR=0.49, P=0.0005). AVF and grafts each displayed better survival if used when initiating HD compared with being used after patients began dialysis with a catheter.
Conclusion: Large differences in vascular access use exist between EUR and the US, even after adjustment for patient characteristics. The results strongly suggest that a facility's preferences and approaches to vascular access practice are major determinants of vascular access use.