Background: The use of arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) among hemodialysis (HD) patients has been consistently associated with lower rates of morbidity and mortality; however, up to 30% of eligible patients refuse the creation or cannulation of an AVF. We aimed to understand the attitudes, beliefs, preferences and values of patients who refused creation or use of an AVF.
Methods: With qualitative methodology, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 HD patients (Canada, 2009), who previously refused creation or use of an AVF. Three independent analysts reviewed interview transcripts.
Results: We discovered three main themes that impacted the decision to refuse a fistula: (i) poor previous personal or vicarious experiences with the fistula, including cannulation, bleeding, time commitment and appearance; (ii) knowledge transfer and informed decision making. Patients identified information from other patients to be as important as information from health care workers, that information on vascular access (VA) was presented but not understood and that timing of information was crucial with information overload at the start of dialysis and (iii) maintenance of status quo and outlook on life. Some patients stated they live day-to-day without being influenced by the mortality risks with a catheter.
Conclusions: AVF refusal is multifactorial and depends on individual patients. Although nephrologists consider the fistula to be the optimal VA, patients do not think in the same terms of reducing infection rates but focus on the practical day-to-day use of their VA and its influence on their quality of life and future outlook.