Background: Previously, the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS) has shown large international variations in vascular access practice. Greater mortality risks have been seen for hemodialysis (HD) patients dialyzing with a catheter or graft versus a native arteriovenous fistula (AVF). To further understand the relationship between vascular access practice and outcomes, we have applied practice-based analyses (using an instrumental variable approach) to decrease the treatment-by-indication bias of prior patient-level analyses.
Study design: A prospective observational study of HD practices.
Setting & participants: Data collected from 1996 to 2004 from 28,196 HD patients from more than 300 dialysis units participating in the DOPPS in 12 countries.
Predictor or factor: Patient-level or case-mix-adjusted facility-level vascular access use. OUTCOMES/MEASUREMENTS: Mortality and hospitalization risks.
Results: After adjusting for demographics, comorbid conditions, and laboratory values, greater mortality risk was seen for patients using a catheter (relative risk, 1.32; 95% confidence interval, 1.22 to 1.42; P < 0.001) or graft (relative risk, 1.15; 95% confidence interval, 1.06 to 1.25; P < 0.001) versus an AVF. Every 20% greater case-mix-adjusted catheter use within a facility was associated with 20% greater mortality risk (versus facility AVF use, P < 0.001); and every 20% greater facility graft use was associated with 9% greater mortality risk (P < 0.001). Greater facility catheter and graft use were both associated with greater all-cause and infection-related hospitalization. Catheter and graft use were greater in the United States than in Japan and many European countries. More than half the 36% to 43% greater case-mix-adjusted mortality risk for HD patients in the United States versus the 5 European countries from the DOPPS I and II was attributable to differences in vascular access practice, even after adjusting for other HD practices. Vascular access practice differences accounted for nearly 30% of the greater US mortality compared with Japan.
Limitations: Possible existence of unmeasured facility- and patient-level confounders that could impact the relationship of vascular access use with outcomes.
Conclusions: Facility-based analyses diminish treatment-by-indication bias and suggest that less catheter and graft use improves patient survival.