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  • Evaluation of the Brachial Artery to Brachial Vein

    Bovine Heterograft Arteriovenous Fistula for Hemodialysis

    Edward A. Merk, MD, Newark, New Jersey

    Kenneth Swari, MD, FACS, Newark, New Jersey

    Since the introduction of the internal arteriove- Results

    nous fistula by Brescia et al [I], many patients have been maintained on long-term hemodialysis. However, even the most experienced investigators report a failure rate of approximately 10 per cent for these fistulas, as reported by Cerilli and Lim- bert [2]. This has resulted in the development of the bovine carotid heterograft as an alternative for chronic hemodialysis.

    Material and Methods

    The patients have been followed up since crea- tion of the fistulas. The only failure occurred in the fistula between the radial artery and cephalic vein in the forearm. The seventeen fistulas be- tween brachial artery and brachial vein are all functioning. Wound infection developed in all three fistulas in the thigh, but in no instance did this require removal or revision of the fistula.

    The only serious complication was a laceration of one of the thigh grafts during insertion of the needle for hemodialysis. This required immediate exploration of the graft with suture of the lacera- tion. At present this fistula is functioning ade- quately.

    During the past year, twenty-one bovine arteriove- nous fistulas were created at our institution. All proce- dures were performed in the operating room using local anesthesia or regional block. Seventeen fistulas were created between the brachial artery above the elbow and the brachial vein below the axilla..(Figure 1.) Three fis- tulas were constructed utilizing the superficial femoral artery and saphenous vein in the thigh, as described by Payne et al [3]. One fistula was created using the radial artery at the wrist and the cephalic vein in the forearm. The bovine heterografts used had an internal diameter of 6.5 mm. All anastomoses were performed end to side using a continuous suture of 6-O Prolenea.


    Many complications associated with the use of the bovine heterograft have been reported, includ- ing anastomotic breakdown, false aneurysm for- mation, skin erosion, hematoma formation, wound infection, vascular steal, and many others. Zincke et al [4] have reported three cases of vascular steal in thigh fistulas. There was no instance of vascular steal in our three cases nor in the seventeen arm heterografts. Haimov and Jacobson [5] have re- ported that vascular insufficiency developed in

    From the Department of Surgery, New Jersey Medical School at Newark and Martland Hospital, Newark, New Jersey.

    Reprint requests should be addressed to Edward A. Merk, MD, Depatt- ment of Surgery, Martland Hospital, Newark, New Jersey 07110.

    Volume 134 July 1975 7

  • Merk and Swan


    Artery Bovine




    Figure 1. Bovine heterograft arferiovenous fistula, right arm.

    three patients with arm heterografts. Two of these patients uitimately had gangrene of the fingers re- quiring amputation.

    However, the positive qualities of the hetero- graft, for example, its availability in standard in- ternal diameters and appropriate lengths, have im- pressed us more than its complications. Another advantage is the favorable manner in which local- ized infection can be treated without sacrifice of the graft.

    In actual practice the intrinsic properties of the bovine heterograft are not what determine its use. At our institution we have used these only in pa- tients in whom an adequate internal Cimino shunt could not be maintained. Several patients have re- ceived a bovine heterograft as a primary procedure because the forearm veins were obviously unsuit- able for shunting; most of these patients have se- vere renal failure and multiple associated medical

    problems. It is in this group of patients that we have found the bovine heterograft most useful.

    Concerning the location of the fistula, we prefer the brachial artery to brachial vein anastomosis for several reasons. First, the large size of the ves- sels makes the anastomosis technically more feasi- ble, and even in the most debilitated patient these vessels are usually suitable for construction of the fistula. It has been our experience that flow in the radial artery is often inadequate to maintain pa- tency of the graft. The reports of Payne [3] and Zincke [4] and their co-workers support this con- cept, since they have had high failure rates when the radial artery was used. We have also found that when the graft is placed in the arm it lies in a very superficial position, unlike many thigh fistu- las which lie deeper in the subcutaneous tissue.


    The use of the bovine heterograft in the severely ill patient is reviewed. From personal experience and a review of the literature we believe the pre- ferred site of placement is between the brachial ar- tery and brachial vein in the arm.


    1. Brescia MJ. Cimino JE, Appel K. Hurroich BJ: Chronic hemodi- alysis using venipuncture and a surgically erected arterio- venous fistula. N Engl J Med 257: 1069, 1966.

    2. Cerilli J. Limbert JG: Technique and results of the construction of arteriovenous fistulas for hemodialysis. Surg Gynecol Obstet 137: 922, 1973.

    3. Payne JE, Chatterjee SN, Barbour BH, Berne TV: Vascular access for chronic hemodialysis using modified bovine ar- terial graft arteriovenous fistula. Am J Surg 126: 54, 1974.

    4. Zincke H, Hirsche BL, Amamoo DG, Woods JE, Andersen RC: The use of bovine carotid grafts for hemodialysis and hy- peralimentation. Surg Gynecol Obstet 139: 350. 1974.

    5. Haimov M, Jacobson JH: Experience with the modified bovine arterial heterograft in peripheral vascular reconstruction and vascular access for hemodialysis. Ann Surg 160: 291, 1974.

    The American Journal of Surgery


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