Improved outcomes with proximal radial-cephalic arteriovenous fistulas compared with brachial-cephalic arteriovenous fistulas

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Brachial-cephalic arteriovenous fistulas (BCFs) are associated with high-flow volumes, leading to potential risks such as arm swelling, steal syndrome, pseudoaneurysm (due to a pressurized access), and cephalic arch stenosis. We hypothesized that a proximal radial-cephalic fistula (prRCF) configuration mitigates these risks because a lower flow state is created. Furthermore, we also hypothesized that despite these lower flows, patencies (primary, primary assisted, secondary) are sustained.


Leveraging a prospectively collected database supplemented with detailed medical record data, analyses of patients undergoing BCF and prRCF were completed (November 2008 through March 2016). Preoperative clinical and imaging characteristics, operative variables, and postoperative complications were reviewed. The primary end point was a composite of arm swelling, steal, and pseudoaneurysm at 2 years. Fistulograms and interventions (surgical revision, thrombectomy, endovascular treatment of cephalic arch stenosis) censored at 2 years were compared between configurations. Patencies were plotted using Kaplan-Meier techniques and compared using Cox proportional hazards.


During the study period, 345 arteriovenous fistulas and 72 prosthetic grafts were primarily placed; 56 patients underwent BCF and 50 patients underwent prRCF with a mean follow-up of 1.8 ± 1.7 (standard deviation) years. Except for prRCF patients being older, there was no difference between the groups with regard to preoperative characteristics. The artery diameter used for anastomosis was significantly larger in the BCF group (4.0 ± 1.1 mm vs 2.6 ± 0.8 mm; P < .001), with higher flow volumes at 6-week ultrasound examination (1060 ± 587 mL/min vs 735 ± 344 mL/min; P < .001). Complications (arm swelling, steal, pseudoaneurysm) were significantly more common in the BCF group (P = .02). There was a trend, albeit statistically insignificant, for the BCF group to require more cephalic arch stenosis interventions. Of those patients needing dialysis within 1 year, both BCF and prRCF were successfully used in the majority of patients (n = 27 [66%] vs n = 25 [63%]; P = 1.0). Unadjusted and adjusted primary, primary assisted, and secondary patency rates were similar between the groups.


prRCFs have fewer complications yet similar midterm durability compared with BCFs. When it is anatomically feasible, prRCFs should be constructed over BCFs because of their superior physiology and clinical outcomes.

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