Background: The impact of socioeconomic factors on arteriovenous fistula (AVF) creation in hemodialysis (HD) patients is not well understood. We assessed the association of area and individual-level indicators of poverty and health care insurance on AVF use among incident end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients initiated on HD. Methods: In this retrospective cohort study using the United States Renal Data System database, we identified 669,206 patients initiated on maintenance HD from January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2012. We assessed the Medicare-Medicaid dual-eligibility status as an indicator of individual-level poverty and ZIP code-level median household income (MHI) data obtained from the 2010 United States Census. We conducted logistic regression of AVF use at start of dialysis as the outcome variable. Results: The proportions of dual-eligible and non-dual-eligible patients who initiated HD with an AVF were 12.53 and 16.17%, respectively (p < 0.001). Dual eligibility was associated with significantly lower likelihood of AVF use upon initiation of HD (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.91; 95% CI 0.90-0.93). Patients in the lowest area-level MHI quintile had an aOR of 0.97 (95% CI 0.95-0.99) compared to those in higher quintile levels. However, dual eligibility and area-level MHI were not significant in patients with Veterans Affairs (VA) coverage. Conclusions: Individual- and area-level measures of poverty were independently associated with a lower likelihood of AVF use at the start of HD, the only exception being patients with VA health care benefits. Efforts to improve incident AVF use may require focusing on pre-ESRD care to be successful.

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