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Upper limb vascular calcification score as a predictor of mortality in diabetic hemodialysis patients.

OBJECTIVE: This study evaluated the correlation between an upper limb vascular calcification (Vc) score (VcS) and late all-cause mortality in diabetic hemodialysis patients with distal upper limb arteries medial wall sclerosis (Mönckeberg disease).

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed Vc in bilateral upper limb plain radiographs and in duplex ultrasound images performed before radial-cephalic fistula (RCF) creation in diabetic hemodialysis patients. Only medial linear calcifications outlining the vessel wall were considered positive on X-ray images, whereas for ultrasound reviews, only continuous highly echogenic plaques producing bright white echos with shadowing were considered to be medial calcification. A VcS was then applied in each patient. Every half of each of the three main arterial conduits (brachial, radial, and ulnar arteries) in each arm was counted as 1 if it contained ≥ 6 cm of linear calcification, whereas absence of calcification or minimum calcification (length <6 cm) was counted as 0. Long-term all-cause mortality was compared between patients with a low or moderate VcS <8 (group I), patients with a high VcS ≥ 8 (group II), and patients with VcS = 0 (control group). Kaplan-Meier statistics were used for comparisons among the groups.

RESULTS: Nineteen patients had a VcS <8, 21 had VcS ≥ 8, and 43 patients had VcS = 0. The study patients had a mean age of 68 ± 10 years (range, 42-83 years; P = .23). Before early conversion to a RCF, dialysis therapy in 59 (71.1%) had already been initiated through central venous catheters (CVCs). The mean follow-up for groups I, II, and controls was 41.4 ± 41.2 months (range, 4-144 months), 34.15 ± 31.3 months (range, 1-108 months), and 66.7 ± 32.5 months (range, 12-126 months), respectively (P = .0009). Forty-seven patients died during the follow-up period (12 in group II and 24 in the controls; P = .88). Survival rates at 12, 24, 36, and 48 months were 78.3%, 65.7%, 54.8%, and 48.1% for group I; 75.2%, 58.8%, 49.3%, and 42% for group II; and 97.7%, 93.1%, 76.8%, and 71.8% for the control group, respectively (P = .013 for all groups; P = .044 for group II vs controls). Patients with (subgroups) or without CVCs at baseline had similar late mortality rates. Patients with CVCs/Vc had lower survival rates than those with CVCs/no Vc at 1 year (73.3% vs 96.5%) and at 3 years (47.7% vs 75.8%; P = .038). CVCs were related to increased risk of death only in subgroup II patients compared with the subcontrol group patients (75.4% vs 37.9% at 5 years, respectively; P = .034).

CONCLUSIONS: Diabetic hemodialysis patients exposed to high levels of upper extremity arterial medial VcSs upon receiving RCFs have an increased long-term mortality risk compared with diabetic hemodialysis patients with no Vc and receiving the same access. Patients with CVCs/Vc had the lowest survival rates.

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