Medical adjuvant treatment to increase patency of arteriovenous fistulae and grafts

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Jul 23;7(7):CD002786. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002786.pub4.


Background: People with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) often require either the formation of an arteriovenous fistula (AVF) or an interposition prosthetic arteriovenous graft (AVG) for haemodialysis. These access sites should ideally have a long life and a low rate of complications (e.g. thrombosis, infection, stenosis, aneurysm formation and distal limb ischaemia). Although some of the complications may be unavoidable, any adjuvant technique or medical treatment aimed at decreasing complications would be welcome. This is the fourth update of the review first published in 2003.

Objectives: To assess the effects of adjuvant drug treatment in people with ESRD on haemodialysis via autologous AVFs or prosthetic interposition AVGs.

Search methods: The Cochrane Vascular Information Specialist searched the Cochrane Vascular Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase and CINAHL databases and trials register to 6 August 2020.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials of active drug versus placebo in people with ESRD undergoing haemodialysis via an AVF or prosthetic interposition AVG.

Data collection and analysis: For this update, two review authors (IM, MFAK) independently selected trials for inclusion, extracted data, assessed risk of bias and assessed the certainty of the evidence according to GRADE. We resolved disagreements by discussion or consultation with another review author (ADS). The primary outcome was the long-term fistula or graft patency rate. Secondary outcomes included duration of hospital stay; complications such as infection, aneurysm formation, stenosis and distal limb ischaemia; and number of related surgical or radiological interventions.

Main results: For this update, one additional study was suitable for inclusion, making a total of 13 trials with 2080 participants. Overall the certainty of the evidence was low or moderate due to short follow-up periods, heterogeneity between trials, small sample sizes, and risk of bias due to incomplete reporting. Medical adjuvant treatments used in the included trials were aspirin, ticlopidine, dipyridamole, dipyridamole plus aspirin, warfarin, fish oil, clopidogrel, sulphinpyrazone and glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) patch. All included studies reported on graft patency by measuring graft thrombosis. There was insufficient evidence to determine if there was a difference in graft patency in studies comparing aspirin versus placebo (odds ratio (OR) 0.40, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.07 to 2.25; 3 studies, 175 participants; low-certainty evidence). The meta-analysis for graft patency comparing ticlopidine versus placebo favoured ticlopidine (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.82; 3 studies, 339 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). There was insufficient evidence to determine if there was a difference in graft patency in studies comparing fish oil versus placebo (OR 0.24, 95% CI 0.03 to 1.95; 2 studies, 220 participants; low-certainty evidence); and studies comparing clopidogrel and placebo (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.13 to 1.19; 2 studies, 959 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Similarly, there was insufficient evidence to determine if there was a difference in graft patency comparing the effect of dipyridamole versus placebo (OR 0.46, 95% CI 0.11 to 1.94; 1 study, 42 participants, moderate-certainty evidence) and dipyridamole plus aspirin versus placebo (OR 0.64, CI 0.16 to 2.56; 1 study, 41 participants; moderate-certainty evidence); comparing low-intensity warfarin with placebo (OR 1.76, 95% CI 0.78 to 3.99; 1 study, 107 participants; low-certainty evidence); comparing sulphinpyrazone versus placebo (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.03 to 5.98; 1 study, 16 participants; low-certainty evidence) and comparing GTN patch and placebo (OR 1.26, 95% CI 0.63 to 2.54; 1 study, 167 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). The single trial evaluating warfarin was terminated early because of major bleeding events in the warfarin group. Only two studies published data on the secondary outcome of related interventions (surgical or radiological); there was insufficient evidence to determine if there was a difference in related interventions between placebo and treatment groups. None of the included studies reported on the duration of hospital stay. Most studies reported complications ranging from mortality to nausea. However, data on complications were limited and reporting varied between studies.

Authors' conclusions: The meta-analyses of three studies for ticlopidine (an antiplatelet treatment), which all used the same dose of treatment but with a short follow-up of only one month, suggest ticlopidine may have a beneficial effect as an adjuvant treatment to increase the patency of AVFs and AVGs in the short term. There was insufficient evidence to determine if there was a difference in graft patency between placebo and other treatments such as aspirin, fish oil, clopidogrel, dipyridamole, dipyridamole plus aspirin, warfarin, sulphinpyrazone and GTN patch. The certainty of the evidence was low to moderate due to short follow-up periods, the small number of studies for each comparison, small sample sizes, heterogeneity between trials and risk of bias due to incomplete reporting. Therefore, it appears reasonable to suggest further prospective studies be undertaken to assess the use of these antiplatelet drugs in renal patients with an AVF or AVG.

Trial registration: NCT00067119 NCT01001351 NCT00912782.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical / methods*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use
  • Graft Occlusion, Vascular / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Renal Dialysis / methods
  • Ticlopidine / therapeutic use
  • Vascular Access Devices
  • Vascular Patency / drug effects*


  • Fish Oils
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Ticlopidine

Associated data