Sodium citrate 4% locking solution for central venous dialysis catheters—an effective, more cost-efficient alternative to heparin

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Thrombosis of the central venous haemodialysis catheter compromises dialysis adequacy and catheter survival. Heparin containing catheter-locking solution has been associated with bleeding, interferes with INR (prothrombin time/international normalized ratio) measurements and is costly. Sodium citrate has been used successfully as a catheter-locking solution, but long-term experience with its use as the exclusive locking solution has not been published.


Our haemodialysis unit converted to locking all central venous haemodialysis catheters with sodium citrate 4% instead of heparin 10 000 U/ml. A retrospective analysis compared the outcomes of the year prior and after the conversion. Flow-related catheter exchange rate, prevalence of INR assay interference, tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) utilization rate, rate of bacteraemias and annual cost of locking agent were examined.


During the study period, 30 925 and 37 139 catheter days were identified during the heparin and citrate years, respectively. The rate of flow-related catheter exchange was not different during the two periods (1.81 vs 1.88 per 1000 catheter days, P=0.89). Falsely elevated INR values were eliminated with citrate and the rate of rt-PA treatments was similar during the two periods (4.1 vs 3.23 per 1000 catheter days respectively, P=0.07). The number of bacteraemias was similar during the two periods (0.77 vs 0.94 per 1000 catheter days respectively, P=0.36) There was an 85% reduction in the costs associated with catheter-locking therapy during the citrate period.


The pharmaco-economic benefits of sodium citrate 4% are well supported by this analysis. Furthermore, citrate offers several clinical advantages over concentrated heparin: citrate lock avoids heparin-associated bleeding complications, improves reliability of INR assays and provides an effective alternative for patients with suspected or confirmed heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.

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