We evaluated our experience over a 4-year period with a silicone dual-lumen catheter with a Dacron cuff (SDLCDC) to determine if the catheter represents an alternative to the polytetrafluoroethylene graft for long-term vascular access for hemodialysis patients. Records of 131 patients who used 168 catheters were reviewed for catheter function, duration of use, and occurrence and response to treatment of complications. Eighty-five percent of catheters functioned adequately until their use was no longer required or the end of the study. One-year catheter survival estimate was 65% and median survival estimate was 18.5 months. Mean blood flow rate achieved was 243 mL/min and recirculation was 7.5%. Exit-site infection occurred in 21% of patients and bacteremia in 12%. There were significantly more exit-site infections in diabetics than nondiabetics (33% v 11%, P less than 0.02). Exit-site infections resolved with parenteral antibiotic therapy in 90% and bacteremia in 25% of cases without catheter removal. Unresolved bacteremia was the most common cause of catheter removal and led to the loss of 7% of catheters. Thrombotic complications occurred in 46% of catheters. Urokinase instillation successfully treated catheter occlusion in 81% of cases. When urokinase instillation failed, streptokinase infusion restored catheter patency 97% of the time. The literature on the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) graft was reviewed, and the SDLCDC was found to be similar to the graft in function, duration of use, and frequency of infectious and thrombotic complications. We conclude that the catheter represents an alternative to the graft for long-term vascular access in hemodialysis patients. Because of the frequent complications with both accesses, neither should be considered optimal. Further research is required to improve vascular access for patients in whom placement of an arteriovenous fistula is not possible.