The use of central venous catheters for vascular access in hemodialysis (HD) patients is associated with an increased risk of complications compared to arteriovenous fistulas (AVF). Despite this, catheter use remains high and patient satisfaction may be an important driver of catheter use.
We developed the Vascular Access Questionnaire (VAQ) to measure patient-reported views of their vascular access. Chronic HD patients at two centers were asked to rate how bothered they were by 17 access-related problems. VAQ symptom scores were compared between patients using catheters and those using fistulas for vascular access.
Two hundred and twenty-two patients were eligible for the study. Symptom score was not different between patients using catheters and those using fistulas (p=0.36). However, patients using fistulas were more likely to be at least moderately bothered by pain, bleeding, bruising, swelling, and the appearance of their access than patients using catheters. Elderly patients reported lower symptom scores with catheters than fistulas.
Patients appear to be primarily concerned with the appearance of their access and cannulation-related complications, particularly the elderly. Better education about the risk of adverse events with catheters and the implementation of measures aimed at reducing cannulation-related complications may help to increase fistula rates and improve patient satisfaction with their vascular access.