Permanent vascular access: a nephrologist's view

D W Windus
American Journal of Kidney Diseases 1993, 21 (5): 457-71
Vascular access complications are the greatest cause of morbidity in hemodialysis patients in the United States. Although arteriovenous fistulas have been recommended as the preferred mode of vascular access, recent data indicate that the majority of patients on hemodialysis in the United States have prosthetic graft fistulas. The most frequent complications of prosthetic graft fistulas are thrombosis and stenosis. Hospitalization rates for fistula complications are higher in patients with diabetes mellitus and of black race. Pathogenesis of intimal hyperplasia may include elaboration of platelet-derived growth factor and mechanical endothelial injury. Screening for stenosis and impaired blood flow in fistulas can be carried out with recirculation measurements, venous and intra-access pressure measurements, and Doppler ultrasound. A combination of the techniques is probably the best current strategy for fistula screening and further evaluation. Surgical thrombectomy and fistula revision remain the standard for comparison of newer approaches to management of complications. Percutaneous angioplasty with or without stent placement, thrombolysis, and use of atherectomy devices may play an increasing role in the treatment of complications, although comparative trials of these modalities need to be performed. No satisfactory long-term pharmacologic means of preventing thrombosis, stenosis, or restenosis have been found for graft arteriovenous fistulas. It is hoped that future directions in the field of vascular access placement and management will include better strategies for allowing primary arteriovenous fistula development, advances in graft materials, improved understanding of the pathogenesis of thrombosis and stenosis, and development strategies to prevent complications.

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