Background: Hemodialysis with a venous catheter increases the risk of infection. The extent to which venous catheters are associated with an increased risk of death among hemodialysis patients has not been extensively studied.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 7497 prevalent hemodialysis patients to assess the association between dialysis with a venous catheter and risk of death due to all causes and to infection.
Results: A tunneled cuffed catheter was used for access in 12% of the patients and non-cuffed, not tunneled catheter in 2%. Younger age (P = 0.0005), black race (P = 0.0022), female gender (P = 0.0004), short duration since starting dialysis (P = 0.0003) and impaired functional status (P = 0.0001) were independently associated with increased use of catheter access. The proportion of patients who died was higher among those who were dialyzed with a non-cuffed (16.8%) or cuffed (15.2%) catheter compared to those dialyzed with either a graft (9.1%) or a fistula (7.3%; P < 0.001). The proportion of deaths due to infection was higher among patients dialyzed with a catheter (3.4%) compared to those dialyzed with either a graft (1.2%) or a fistula (0.8%; P < 0.001). The adjusted odds ratio (95% CI) for all-cause and infection-related death among patients dialyzed with a catheter was 1.4 (1.1, 1.9) and 3.0 (1.4, 6.6), respectively, compared to those with an arteriovenous (AV) fistula.
Conclusion: Venous catheters are associated with an increased risk of all-cause and infection-related mortality among hemodialysis patients.