Background: The use of the femoral vessels for permanent haemodialysis access has been neglected during the last two decades. Since 1981 femoral artery-vein loop polytetrafluoroethylene grafts have been constructed in our chronic haemodialysis patients. This study examines results obtained in patients with this particular graft over the last 14 years.
Methods: This clinical study is retrospective in nature. Overall 35 patients, with 37 femoral grafts, are included. Inclusion and exclusion criteria for this type of graft are given and the surgical procedure detailed.
Results: Seven patients had femoral grafts used as primary dialysis access. Twenty-eight patients had femoral grafts used after multiple access failures. There was no perioperative mortality. Immediate thrombotic non-function of the graft occurred in three patients. In the long term no patient death was related to the femoral grafts. Twenty-seven (73%) grafts had no long-term complications. The leading cause for graft 'loss' was patient death; in the first year 10 grafts were lost, eight because of patient death. All eight patients died with functioning grafts. Median graft survival was 21 months in all patients and 28 months in non-diabetic patients. Twenty-seven (73%) grafts were patent at the end of the first year, 33% of grafts were still patent after 5 years. Worsening claudication occurred in four patients; one diabetic required foot amputation. Four patients had late graft thrombosis; only two patients had bacteraemia originating from the femoral graft. Urea reduction ratio greater than 60% was measured in 87.5% of patients.
Conclusion: The femoral artery vein graft is a good primary and secondary haemodialysis access. Both infection and thrombosis rates are low and graft survival is comparable, if not superior to, that of upper-limb grafts. The graft is easy to cannulate, can be used early, is easily protected, and is cosmetically acceptable.