Overcoming Barriers to Arteriovenous Fistula Creation and Use
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National guidelines advocate the placement of arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) as the preferred vascular access for hemodialysis (HD) patients because of their low complication rate, lower costs, and prolonged patency, once matured. The current Dialysis Outcomes Quality Initiative (DOQI) guidelines aim for an AVF incidence of 50% and a 40% prevalence in the United States. Although patients currently starting dialysis do so at an increasingly older age and with more comorbidity, they should be given every opportunity to receive an AVF. Meeting this challenge is facilitated by a multidisciplinary approach with early referral to the nephrologist in the predialysis period for access planning. Key components of a vascular access program may include the coordination by a dedicated access coordinator and outcome tracking via a prospective database. Preoperative vessel evaluation and careful selection of an appropriate surgical site, along with an experienced surgeon, improve surgical outcomes. Transposed brachiobasilic or other tertiary fistulas should be offered to patients who cannot receive a native radiocephalic or brachiocephalic fistula. The ability to routinely monitor and salvage failing AVFs is important to achieving successful AVF outcomes. Standardized definitions of AVF outcomes are important to allow individual centers and continuous quality assurance (CQA) programs to track and benchmark their outcomes against local and national standards to help them meet recommended targets.
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