Background: Optimizing vascular access outcomes is still a challenge, since 30-60% of arteriovenous fistulas fail or do not mature and catheters are widely used in contemporary patients. Methods: This study reports on strategies and outcomes in a single center in which access planning, surgery and maintenance are managed by a team of nephrologists. We retrospectively analyzed 305 fistulas and 61 grafts created in 270 consecutive patients between 2002 and 2013. Results: The percentage of patients receiving a fistula or graft who initiated hemodialysis with a mature access was 68.6%. Among prevalent patients, 71.7% used a fistula, 15.7% a graft and 12.6% a catheter. Rates of primary failure and revision before cannulation were 14.4 and 1.6% for fistulas vs. 4.9 and 3.3% for grafts. After maturation, complications (1.040 vs. 0.188 per patient-year (py)) and interventions (0.743 vs. 0.066 per py) were greater for grafts than for fistulas (p < 0.001). Secondary patency did not significantly differ between grafts and fistulas (median survival 34.8 vs. 57.3 months, p = 0.36), unless primary failures were excluded from Kaplan-Meier analysis (median survival 34.9 vs. 70.9 months, p = 0.03). Conclusions: High fistula prevalence, low access-related morbidity and catheter dependence were achieved using individualized strategies, including mid-forearm or perforating vein fistula creation and selective graft placement in high risk patients. Direct involvement of nephrologists throughout all steps of access care can improve access outcomes, by promoting a patient-centered approach.

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