Practice patterns in arteriovenous fistula ligation among kidney transplant recipients in the United States Renal Data Systems

Caitlin W. Hicks, Sunjae Bae, Marcos E. Pozo, Sandra R. DiBrito, Christopher J. Abularrage, Dorry L. Segev, Jacqueline Garonzik-Wang, Thomas Reifsnyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Arteriovenous fistulas (AVF) and grafts (AVG) have been associated with significant cardiac morbidity that often improves after ligation. However, AV access ligation after kidney transplant (KT) is controversial due to concern for potential long-term allograft failure. We investigated US trends in AV access ligation after KT and the association between ligation and allograft failure. Methods: All adult Medicare patients on pretransplant hemodialysis with a functioning AVF or AVG who underwent first-time KT were studied using the United States Renal Data Systems (January 2011 to December 2013). Post-transplant AV access ligation was determined using current procedural terminology codes. The incidence of post-transplant AV access ligation was described, and characteristics for patients undergoing ligation vs no ligation were compared. Kaplan-Meier curves and Cox proportional hazard models were then used to determine the association of AV access ligation with long-term allograft failure and all-cause mortality after accounting for patient characteristics, donor characteristics, and variation in transplant center practices. Results: A total of 16,845 patients with functioning AVF/AVG received a KT during the study period. Of these, 779 (4.6%) underwent post-transplant AV access ligation. The proportion of patients who underwent ligation varied substantially between transplant centers, ranging from 0% (43.0% of centers) to >10% (11.0% of centers). Transplant recipients who underwent access ligation were more likely to be female (40.4% vs 36.6%), had lower median body mass index (27.6 vs 28.4 kg/m2), spent longer on dialysis pretransplant (4.2 vs 4.0 years), and were less likely to have renal failure secondary to diabetes compared with other etiologies (25.0% vs 34.9%) (all, P ≤.03). Patients who underwent ligation were also more likely to have steal syndrome (77.2% vs 4.1%) and AV access infectious or aneurysmal complications (2.7% vs 0.7%) (both, P <.001). After adjusting for donor and recipient characteristics, increasing age (adjusted hazards ratio [aHR], 1.01; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.00-1.01), increasing years on dialysis (aHR, 1.06; 95% CI, 1.00-1.13), zero human leukocyte antigen mismatch (aHR, 1.82; [95% CI, 1.09-3.05), and steal syndrome (aHR, 41.00; 95% CI, 34.56-48.64) were associated with post-transplant AV access ligation. Black race (aHR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.69-0.98) and congestive heart failure (aHR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.54-0.82) were negatively associated with ligation. Three-year allograft failure occurred in 4.9% ± 1.3% transplant recipients who underwent access ligation vs 9.5% ± 0.5% transplant recipients with functioning access (log-rank, P =.30), and was not significantly different between groups after risk adjustment (aHR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.47-1.40). There was also no significant association between AV access and all-cause mortality after risk adjustment (aHR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.46-1.54). Conclusions: Post-transplant AV access ligation is uncommon and generally reserved for patients with steal syndrome. Importantly, ligation is not associated with post-transplant allograft failure, which occurs in less than 10% of patients at 3 years. There also appears to be no reduction in all-cause mortality with AV access ligation. These data suggest that AV access ligation after KT can likely be reserved for access-related complications because the systemic benefits appear to be minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)842-852.e1
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • AV access
  • Arteriovenous fistula
  • Ateriovenous graft
  • Kidney transplant
  • Ligation
  • Renal transplant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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