Conversion of vascular access type among incident hemodialysis patients: description and association with mortality

Am J Kidney Dis. 2009 May;53(5):804-14. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2008.11.031. Epub 2009 Mar 5.


Background: Limited data exist describing vascular access conversions during the first year on dialysis therapy or the effect of converting to and from a catheter on subsequent mortality risk.

Study design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting & participants: We studied a random sample of incident US hemodialysis patients (initiated long-term dialysis < 30 days before study entry) in the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS; 1996-2004).

Predictors: At dialysis therapy initiation, we assessed vascular access type in use (arteriovenous fistula [AVF], arteriovenous graft [AVG], or catheter) and other patient characteristics. We characterized changes in vascular access type (conversions) by using regularly collected functional status information.

Outcome & measurements: We assessed time to all-cause mortality. We first described conversions, then used time-dependent Cox regression to estimate mortality hazard ratios (HRs) for conversions from a catheter to a permanent vascular access (versus no conversion) and conversions from a permanent vascular access to a catheter (versus no conversion).

Results: The study included 4,532 patients; 69.2% were dialyzing with a catheter; 17.6%, with an AVG; and 13.1%, with an AVF. In patients initiating therapy with an AVF or AVG, 22% experienced a conversion (failure), and median times to first failure were 62 and 84 days, respectively. In catheter patients, 59% converted to an AVF/AVG (predominantly AVG [57%]); median times to first conversion were 92 and 66 days, respectively. Conversion to a permanent access was associated with an adjusted mortality HR of 0.69 (95% confidence interval, 0.55 to 0.85). The effect was similar for conversion to an AVF or AVG, and these persisted across demographic groups and facilities with different conversion practices. Conversion from a permanent vascular access to a catheter was associated with an adjusted mortality HR of 1.81 (95% confidence interval, 1.22 to 2.68).

Limitations: Potential for residual confounding because of unmeasured factors influencing decision to convert.

Conclusion: Vascular access conversions are common in incident patients. Continued efforts to increase early nephrologist referral and permanent vascular access placement may help decrease mortality risk in incident dialysis patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Catheters, Indwelling / adverse effects*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Renal Dialysis / instrumentation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology