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J Clin Apher. 2012;27(3):153-9. doi: 10.1002/jca.21225. Epub 2012 Apr 26.

The choice of vascular access for therapeutic apheresis.

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Division of Nephrology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.


Therapeutic apheresis (TA) is performed using either centrifugation-based or filter-based systems. The blood flow rate (BFR) used for TA using centrifugation-based systems is less than 100 mL/min. Because of this low BFR requirement, even peripheral veins can be considered as an option for TA, especially for less-frequent treatments and those performed for short periods. Other options for vascular access (VA) include central venous catheters (temporary or tunneled), totally implantable ports, and arteriovenous fistulae (AVF) or grafts (AVG). Nontunneled catheters should be considered as the choice of VA for relatively short-term treatments mainly in the inpatient settings. For long-term treatments, ports and tunneled catheters should be considered because of lower rates of infections compared to nontunneled catheters. However, studies in hemodialysis (HD) patients have demonstrated significantly higher morbidity and mortality rates associated with the use of tunneled catheters as compared to AVF. Therefore, if TA is being considered for several years, AVG and AVF would be the preferred options of VA. Studies in HD population indicate far better outcomes with the use of AVF as compared to AVG. This article, as presented at the Therapeutic Apheresis Academy in September 2011, is an overview of the available VA options for TA based on indication and duration of treatment. Pros and cons of each option are mentioned briefly. Finally, for those considered for AVF placement for chronic TA, specific recommendations are made for the care of AVF based on our own experience at University of Virginia.

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