The Natural History of Tunneled Hemodialysis Catheters Removed or Exchanged: A Single-Institution Experience

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Abstract

PURPOSE

To track the natural history of tunneled hemodialysis catheters requiring removal or exchange at a single institution.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Over a 2-year period, tunneled hemodialysis catheters that presented to interventional radiology for removal or exchange were entered into this retrospective study. Patient demographics, catheter location, dwell time, and indication for removal were recorded. Pull-back contrast venography was performed with imaging over the chest. Catheters were then removed or exchanged.

RESULTS

Three hundred thirty-four tunneled dialysis catheters were removed or exchanged in 207 patients; 108 male, median age 53 years. Dwell time, available from 296 catheters, ranged from 1 to 114 days (median, 66 days) for a total of 32,847 catheter days. One hundred three catheters were removed for infection, yielding a rate of infection requiring catheter removal of 3.0 per 1,000 catheter days. One hundred catheters were removed for other working access, and 96 catheters were exchanged for poor function. Two hundred sixty-five were removed or exchanged from the internal jugular vein, 22 from the subclavian vein, and 24 from the femoral vein. One hundred seventy-two (76%) of the 226 catheters studied with contrast had fibrin sheaths; of which 42 had thrombus identified along the catheter tract. One hundred ninety-three catheters were removed, and 141 catheters were exchanged for new catheters with 82 catheters receiving balloon disruption of the fibrin sheath.

CONCLUSIONS

Approximately one third of tunneled dialysis catheters are removed for infection, one third for other working access, and one third for poor function. Catheters usually remain in the patient for a median of 2 months. Fibrin sheaths associated with hemodialysis catheters are very common. Thrombus formation around the sheath is frequent.

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