BACKGROUND: The majority of patients with end-stage renal disease are dependent on hemodialysis. Significant stenosis or occlusion of the subclavian vein is known to occur in 20% to 50% of patients who have had central venous catheters inserted into the subclavian vein or the internal jugular vein. Surgical bypass of the obstructed venous segment proximal to a functioning dialysis access site is an established treatment to relieve symptoms and salvage the functional dialysis access. STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective review of all subclavian venous bypass procedures performed at St Louis University Hospital from May 1987 to May 2000 was undertaken. Twelve procedures were performed during this time. The mean age of the patient was 55.5 years (range 17 to 72 years). There were 11 men and 1 woman. Before surgical bypass, all patients underwent bilateral venograms to evaluate their central venous systems. RESULTS: An extraanatomic surgical bypass was performed in all patients. Patients were followed for a mean of 16 months (range 1 to 79 months). At 1 month, 100% of hemodialysis access sites remained functional. At 1 year, 80%; 2 years, 60%; and 3 years, 25% of the salvaged arteriovenous hemodialysis access sites provided for functional dialysis. One patient required thrombectomy of the bypass graft at 14 months. CONCLUSIONS: Surgical bypass of an occluded or stenotic subclavian vein segment is successful in providing both symptomatic relief and salvage of a functioning dialysis access in the hemodialysis patient population. Study of the central venous system is essential in selecting an appropriate bypass procedure in individual patients.
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