There are more than 300,000 end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients in the United States, with those on hemodialysis requiring vascular access for dialysis treatment. According to the 1999 annual report of the U.S. Renal Data System (USRDS), the leading cause of morbidity in this patient population is related to vascular access placement and the resultant complications. Vascular access procedures account for more than 10% of the annual ESRD budget and are conservatively estimated at £I billion annually. The impact of dysfunctional vascular access on physician time, health care resources, and patient quality of life is profound. In 1997 I opened a freestanding, dedicated access center for the diagnosis and treatment of access-related disorders. This article summarizes the experience of this center. In our freestanding dialysis access center, a large referral base has been established consisting of 30 dialysis centers with approximately 2000 patients. During the 27 months from October 1997 to December 1999, 1087 patients were treated. These patients received 2862 access procedures (2.6 procedures/patient). Annualized, this gives a dysfunction rate of 1.15 episodes/patient/year at risk. Endovascular declotting procedures were performed 1282 times (45%) with a success rate (defined as one uneventful hemodialysis following the procedure) of 93% (1187/1282). Prospective angiography followed by percutaneous transluminal angioplasty was performed 703 times (24%). This procedure was successful 695 times for a success rate of 99%. There were 644 (23%) catheter procedures performed consisting of catheter placements, catheter exchanges through new or old tracts, and catheter removals. The success rate for catheter procedures was 99.1%. Complication rates were extremely low, both for major and minor complications, exceeding all published standards. Hemodialysis vascular access can be optimized in a freestanding, focused, outcomes-driven outpatient access center. Outcomes can meet or exceed the National Kidney Foundation Dialysis Outcomes Quality Initiative (NKF-DOQI) guidelines for vascular access while at the same time providing the patient with an outpatient procedure and the referring dialysis unit and nephrologist with an efficient, effective mode of patient care.
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