Long Term Results of Bypass Graft to the Right Atrium in the Management of Superior Vena Cava Syndrome in Dialysis Patients

Ann Vasc Surg. 2021 Jul:74:321-329. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2021.01.099. Epub 2021 Mar 6.


Background: Superior vena cava (SVC) occlusion in dialysis patients is a serious complication that can cause SVC syndrome and vascular access dysfunction. While endovascular therapy has advanced to become the first line of treatment, open surgical treatment may still be needed occasionally. However, no long term outcome data has been previously reported.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of 5 dialysis patients treated with bypass graft to the right atrium from 2012 to 2014. Four patients had severe dysfunction of their upper arm dialysis access as well as superior vena cava syndrome, and one patient with a femoral tunneled dialysis catheter (TDC) had SVC occlusion. None of the patients were candidates for lower extremity access creation or peritoneal dialysis (PD). Three patients underwent a left brachiocephalic-right atrial bypass and 2 underwent a bypass from the cephalic fistula to the right atrium.

Results: All procedures were technically successful and maintained function of the arteriovenous fistulas or allowed creation of a new upper extremity dialysis graft. One-year secondary patency rate of the bypass was 100%. Longer follow up revealed that one patient died of leg sepsis and another one of a stroke within 14 months after the procedure. Another patient did well for 16 months when recurrent graft thrombosis occurred; and ultimately the graft failed after 31 months despite multiple interventions. Two patients maintained bypass graft patency during a follow up of 78 months; however, they underwent multiple endovascular interventions (23) and open vascular access procedures (4) to maintain hemodialysis function.

Conclusion: Bypass grafts to the right atrium in dialysis patients with SVC occlusion are successful in maintaining function of already existing vascular access or new ones. Long term secondary patency can be achieved but requires strict follow up and a proactive endovascular strategy to treat lesions in the access and or the bypass graft.

Keywords: Endovascular treatment; Hemodialysis access; Superior vena cava obstruction; Superior vena cava reconstruction; Superior vena cava repair; Superior vena cava syndrome; Thoracic central vein occlusion.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Blood Vessel Prosthesis Implantation* / adverse effects
  • Brachiocephalic Veins / diagnostic imaging
  • Brachiocephalic Veins / surgery*
  • Female
  • Graft Occlusion, Vascular / etiology
  • Graft Occlusion, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Heart Atria / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Atria / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome / etiology
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Upper Extremity / blood supply*
  • Vascular Patency