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J Vasc Surg. 2002 Sep;36(3):464-8.

The use of cryopreserved femoral vein grafts for hemodialysis access in patients at high risk for infection: a word of caution.

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  • 1Vascular Surgery Service, Academic Department of Surgery, Greenville Hospital System, SC 29605, USA.



Several studies have reported success in the use of venous homografts for arteriovenous access and for arterial bypass in infected fields. On the basis of these reports and in an effort to prevent the loss of vascular access to infection, we performed arteriovenous graft placement with cryopreserved femoral vein in patients at high risk for graft infection. This study reviews the results of our experience.


Of approximately 3100 dialysis access operations performed in a single vascular surgery service between October 1999 and July 2001, 20 patients received arteriovenous access grafts with cryopreserved femoral vein. All patients were judged to be at high risk for infection of the access on the basis of the presence of active infection at the time of graft implantation, the location of the graft in the thigh position, or a history of multiple access infections. The grafts were placed in three locations: thigh (n = 14), upper extremity (n = 3), and chest wall (n = 3).


No early operative deaths or graft thromboses were seen. There were three late deaths: two from cardiac disease and one from a graft-related complication. Thirteen major graft related complications (65%) occurred in the 20 patients. There were three generalized graft infections (15%) and eight localized graft infections (40%) at dialysis needle access sites in 11 patients. Six of the graft infections were associated with graft rupture and frank hemorrhage, resulting in one patient death from exsanguination. Two grafts (10%) thrombosed, one of which was salvaged after thrombectomy and revision. These complications occurred between 1 and 14 months after implantation. At a mean follow-up period of 13 months (range, 1 to 17 months), only five of the 20 patients (25%) have a functioning cryopreserved femoral vein arteriovenous graft.


The use of cryopreserved vein graft for hemodialysis access in patients at high risk for infection is associated with a high incidence rate of graft infection and rupture, particularly when placed in the thigh position. The routine use of cryopreserved vein graft in the thigh should be avoided. The in situ replacement of infected polytetrafluoroethylene arteriovenous grafts with cryopreserved vein should be considered if alternative sites for new access placement are unavailable.

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