The Brescia fistula is the method of choice for providing vascular access in patients who have chronic kidney failure that requires hemodialysis. This study investigated hand hemodynamics in patients with Brescia fistulas to determine the incidence of radial steal and its relationship to symptoms of arterial insufficiency of the hand. Twenty-three patients, one of whom had symptoms of arterial insufficiency, were studied. Thumb systolic blood pressure was determined by photoplethysmography under resting conditions and with the fistula, radial, and ulnar arteries occluded successively by digital pressure. The brachial pressure was determined by Doppler ultrasonography and the thumb/arm pressure ratio was determined for each experimental condition. The presence of a Brescia fistula resulted in a 40% reduction of the thumb blood pressure (median thumb/arm ratio = 0.61), which returned to normal (median ratio = 1.03) when the fistula was occluded. Occlusion of the radial artery distal to the fistula resulted in a significant increase in thumb blood pressure (median ratio = 0.89; p less than 0.001), indicating the presence of radial steal. This phenomenon occurred in 21 of the 24 fistulas (88%) studied. This study demonstrated that the radial steal phenomenon occurs in most patients with Brescia fistulas but in only a small number of these patients do symptoms of arterial insufficiency develop.