Comparison of arteriovenous fistulas and arteriovenous grafts in patients with favorable vascular anatomy and equivalent access to health care: is a reappraisal of the Fistula First Initiative indicated?

J Am Coll Surg. 2013 Apr;216(4):679-85; discussion 685-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2012.12.021. Epub 2013 Feb 6.


Background: Initiatives to increase arteriovenous fistula (AVF) use are based on studies that show that AVFs require fewer interventions and have better patency than arteriovenous grafts (AVGs). Because patients who receive AVFs typically have more favorable vascular anatomy and are referred earlier for access placement than those who receive AVGs, the advantages of AVF might be overestimated. We compared outcomes for AVFs and AVGs in patients with equivalent vascular anatomy who were on dialysis via catheter at the time of vascular access placement.

Study design: The study included patients who underwent placement of a first-time AVF or AVG between 2006 and 2009, who were on dialysis via catheter at the time of access placement, and who had favorable arterial and venous (>3 mm) anatomy. Outcomes for AVF and AVG were compared.

Results: Eighty-nine AVF and 59 AVG patients met study inclusion criteria. Similar secondary patency was achieved by AVG and AVF at 12 (72% vs 71%) and 24 months (57% vs 62%), respectively (p = 0.96). The number of interventions required to maintain patency for AVF (n = 1; range 0 to 10) and AVG (n = 1; range 0 to 11) were not different (p = 0.36). However, the number of catheter days to first access use was more than doubled in the AVF group (median 81 days) compared with the AVG group (median 38 days; p < 0.001).

Conclusions: For patients who are receiving dialysis via catheter at the time of access placement, the maturation time, risk of nonmaturation, and interventions required to achieve a functional AVF can negate its benefits over AVG. A fistula first approach might not always apply to patients who are already on dialysis when referred for chronic access placement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical*
  • Blood Vessel Prosthesis*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome