Vascular Access for Cancer Chemotherapy

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A persistent problem in caring for patients receiving long-term intravenous chemotherapy for cancer is the maintenance of access to the vascular system. At Emory University Hospital between January 1975 and December 1977, 48 cancer chemotherapy patients had upper-arm bovine arteriovenous fistulas created for vascular access. The heterografts were inserted from the distal brachial artery to the proximal brachial vein under local, regional block, or general anesthesia. Grafts were functioning satisfactorily in 81% of the subjects at the time of death or at termination of treatment. The mean duration of useful graft patency for the entire group was 4.6 months, with a range of 0 to 27 months. Thrombosis of the graft was the most frequently encountered complication; infection and bleeding occurred infrequently. Reoperation was required in 35% of grafts, of which one half were salvaged. No mortality was attributable to the operative procedures or to the presence of a chronic arteriovenous fistula.

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