Purpose: Traditional options for treating ischemic steal syndrome related to a functioning dialysis access graft or fistula include banding or ligation. Unfortunately, these techniques usually result in inconsistent limb salvage, loss of a functional access, or both. We report our experience with an alternative method of limb revascularization that eliminates steal while maintaining continuous dialysis access.
Methods: Patients who had critical limb ischemia and functioning arteriovenous fistulae (AVF) underwent color-flow duplex scanning, digital photoplethysmography, and arteriography. Arterial ligation distal to the AVF origin eliminated the steal physiologic mechanism while arterial bypass grafting from above to below the AVF revascularized the extremity (distal revascularization-interval ligation [DRIL] procedure).
Results: From March 1994 through December 1996, 21 patients with functioning extremity AVFs presented with critical ischemia and steal syndrome. Eleven patients had chronic ischemia with rest pain, paresthesias, or ulcerations related to nine native fistulae (six brachiocephalic, two basilic vein transpositions, one radiocephalic) and two prosthetic bridge grafts (one upper arm, one lower extremity). Acute ischemia developed in 10 patients related to three native fistulae (two brachiocephalic, one radiocephalic) and seven prosthetic bridge grafts (three forearm, three lower extremity, one upper arm). All 21 patients were treated with the DRIL technique. Three of these patients required treatment for ischemia at the time of AVF construction. Nineteen of 21 bypass procedures were performed with autogenous vein, including nine brachial-brachial, three brachial-radial, two radial-radial, two brachial-ulnar, one popliteal-popliteal, one femoral-popliteal, and one femoral-peroneal. Polytetrafluoroethylene grafts were used for one external iliac-popliteal bypass graft and one axillary-brachial bypass graft. Limb salvage and maintenance of a functional fistula were achieved in 100% and 94%, respectively, at 18 months by life-table analysis.
Conclusion: The DRIL technique reliably restores antegrade flow to the ischemic limb, eliminates the potential pathway for the steal physiologic mechanism, and maintains continuous dialysis access in these difficult patients.