IMPORTANCE: Based on evidence of survival benefit when initiating hemodialysis (HD) via arteriovenous fistula (AVF) or arteriovenous graft (AVG) vs hemodialysis catheter (HC), the National Kidney Foundation-Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative published practice guidelines in 1997 recommending 50% or greater AVF rates in incident HD patients. A decade after, lapses exist and the impact on HD outcomes is uncertain. OBJECTIVE: To assess the achievement of the practice goals for incident vascular access and the effects on HD outcomes. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This retrospective cohort study was conducted using the US Renal Data System. All patients with end-stage renal disease in the United States without prior renal replacement therapy who had incident vascular access for HD created between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2010 (N = 510 000) were included. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Incident vascular access use rates and mortality. Relative mortality was quantified using multivariable Cox proportional hazard models. Coarsened exact matching and propensity score-matching techniques were used to better account for confounding by indication. RESULTS: Of 510 000 patients included in this study, 82.6% initiated HD via HC, 14.0% via AVF, and 3.4% via AVG. Arteriovenous fistula use increased only minimally, from 12.2% in 2006 to 15.0% in 2010. Patients initiating HD with AVF had 35% lower mortality than those with HC (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.64-0.66; P < .001). Those initiating HD with AVF had 23% lower mortality than those initiating with an HC while awaiting maturation of an AVF (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.76-0.79; P < .001). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Current incident AVF practice falls exceedingly short years after recommendations were made in 1997. The impact of this shortcoming on mortality for patients with end-stage renal disease is enormous. Functioning permanent access at initiation of HD confers lower mortality even compared with patients temporized with an HC while awaiting maturation of permanent access. A change of current policies and structured multidisciplinary efforts are required to establish matured fistulae prior to HD to ameliorate this deficit in delivering care.
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