Endovascular versus surgical treatment for thrombosed hemodialysis grafts: A prospective, randomized study

M J Dougherty, K D Calligaro, N Schindler, C A Raviola, A Ntoso
Journal of Vascular Surgery 1999, 30 (6): 1016-23

PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to compare clinical outcome and costs for two widely used treatment strategies for hemodialysis graft thrombosis.

METHODS: During a 4-year period, 80 patients with thrombosed dialysis grafts were randomly assigned to surgical thrombectomy with or without graft revision (SURG) or thrombolytic therapy with urokinase with the pulse-spray technique (ENDO), with adjunctive percutaneous transluminal angioplasty as indicated. All the procedures were performed in an endovascular operating suite with fistulography. The clinical and cost data were tabulated, and the outcome was analyzed with the life-table method.

RESULTS: Fifty-six women and 24 men ranged in age from 33 to 90 years (mean, 63.7 years). The patients had undergone a mean of 2.8 prior access procedures in the ipsilateral extremity. All the grafts were upper extremity expanded polytetrafluoroethylene grafts. Lesions that were presumed to be the primary cause of graft thrombosis were identified in 73 of 80 grafts, and 60 of these were at the venous anastomosis. The procedure time averaged 99 minutes for the patients in the SURG group and 113 minutes for the patients in the ENDO group (P =.12). Eleven patients in the ENDO group crossed over to surgical revision as compared with two patients in the SURG group who required adjunctive percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (P =.005). The mean cost of treatment (including room and supply costs but not professional fees) was significantly higher for the ENDO group than for the SURG group ($2945 vs $1512; P <.001). There were no procedure-related complications in either group. At a median follow-up time of 24 months, there was no difference in primary or assisted primary patency between groups, which averaged 6 and 7 months, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Although thrombolytic therapy combined with endovascular treatment can extend the life of dialysis grafts with results similar to surgical revision, there is a high rate of technical failure necessitating surgery and a substantially higher cost for thrombolysis.

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