Chronic hemodialysis patients with failed native fistulas and/or synthetic arteriovenous grafts are usually dialyzed via surgically placed silicone jugular catheters such as the PermCath (Quinton, Seattle, WA, U.S.A.). We report a successful experience with the use of double lumen polyurethane central venous catheters placed percutaneously. Catheters with poor flows were replaced over a guidewire at the bedside. Eleven long-term hemodialysis patients failed arteriovenous access, 9 of them having had multiple attempts at fistulas and/or grafts. Seven of these patients had also failed peritoneal dialysis. They were dialyzed with polyurethane catheters for a mean of 681 +/- 280 days (range 282-1150 days), requiring a mean of 3.4 +/- 0.4 new venous punctures and 8.2 +/- 1.5 catheter changes over a guidewire over that period of time. Actuarial patient survival was 50% at 2 years, and mean urea reduction during dialysis was 64.2 +/- 1.7%. The septicemia rate was only 1.2 episodes per 1,000 catheter-days, but about 20% of patients experienced central venous occlusion, attributable to the use of subclavian catheter placement in 82% of the sites. The success of this technique and its elimination of the need for urokinase, radiologic interventions, and surgical placement warrant its consideration as an acceptable form of long-term vascular access, provided jugular placement allows reduced central venous occlusion rates.