Purpose: Data from the United States Renal Data System show about 30% of prevailing hemodialysis (HD) patients use arteriovenous fistulae (AVF), which falls far short of the Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (K/DOQI) goals of 40-50%. Recent initiatives to increase the use of AVF in HD patients have been criticized as unachievable under realistic practice conditions.
Methods: A multidisciplinary effort to increase AVF use was undertaken at an outpatient HD center beginning in 1998. Strategies focused on education and recruitment of patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings, preservation of veins, pre-operative vein mapping, and education of staff.
Results: AVF rates increased from 32%, to 72% over 6 years. The percentage of prosthetic grafts decreased from 40% to 13%. Central venous catheters fell from 28% to 15%. Among residual patients with catheters, 77% had maturing fistulae, as well. Infection rates in the dialysis unit decreased by 39%. Bacteremia declined by 47%. These improvements have been sustainable over the past 12 months.
Conclusions: Adherence to a strategic program similar to the Fistula First Initiative can increase fistula rates under ordinary practice conditions. High fistula rates can be achieved in male and female patients. Unanimous commitment among all members of the health care team is needed. Reduction in the risks of infection, bacteremia, endocarditis, and death may be derived from achievable changes in practice.