This study was undertaken to evaluate hemodialysis-associated subclavian vein stenosis (SVS) and to clarify treatment of this condition. Forty-seven patients underwent upper arm venography to evaluate fistula dysfunction. Subclavian vein stenosis was documented in 12. Eleven of 12 had elevated venous dialysis pressure (196 +/- 8.9 mm Hg), and six had arm edema. All 12 had previously undergone subclavian cannulation on the side of the fistula. Thirty-five patients showed no evidence of subclavian vein stenosis. Twelve of these 35 patients (mean venous dialysis pressure 113 +/- 2.3 mm Hg) had undergone previous subclavian cannulation on the side of the fistula. The mean age of the fistula at the time of venogram in patients with subclavian vein stenosis was 17.0 months versus 5.8 months in patients with ipsilateral subclavian cannulation without subclavian vein stenosis. Percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA) was performed on 11 of 12 patients with SVS lowering venous dialysis pressure and restoring patency to the fistula in 100%. Lesions recurred in two of 11 patients and were successfully retreated with PTA. We conclude that SVS is a common dialysis problem that is amenable to treatment with PTA. Elevated venous dialysis pressures are a sensitive indicator of this condition.