Vascular access and patient outcomes in hemodialysis: questions answered in recent literature

Artif Organs. 2003 Mar;27(3):237-41. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1594.2003.07225.x.


Hemodialysis is not possible without access to the vascular system to provide an adequate and reliable source of blood flow through the hemodialyzer. Since maintenance hemodialysis therapy became a reality in the latter half of the twentieth century, no vascular access has exceeded the success and reliability of arteriovenous fistulae (AVF). They have the lowest infection and thrombosis rates, have the longest patency rates, and are associated with the best morbidity and mortality outcomes of any access modality. In the United States, the majority of patients starting hemodialysis do not have a primary AVF, which may explain why vascular access complications represent almost 20% of the total spending for hemodialysis. In addition, as much as 50% of hospitalization costs for end-stage renal disease are related to access issues. Every effort must be directed in the U.S. as well as elsewhere to promote the use of AVF whenever possible. In some European countries, more than 90% of patients have AVF as their hemodialysis access when nephrologists perform placement of vascular access. Already, some programs in the U.S. have recognized the need for trained nephrologists to provide these services. U.S. interventional nephrologists should be given the opportunity to learn AVF placement procedures to emulate their European counterparts, and thus improve U.S. dialysis outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Catheters, Indwelling / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects*