Haemodialysis Vascular Access in India: Current Practices Amongst Nephrologists

Haemodialysis Vascular Access in India: Current Practices Amongst Nephrologists

Original article

Title: Haemodialysis Vascular Access: Current Practices amongst Indian Nephrologists

Authors: Dinesh Bansal1,2, Vijay Kher1, Krishan Lal Gupta2, Debasish Banerjee3* and Vivekanand Jha1,2,4*

Institutions: 1Fortis Escorts Kidney and Urology Institute; 2Department of Nephrology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh India; 3Renal and Transplantation Unit, St Georges University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK; 4George Institute for Global Health India

*Joint Last Authors

Running title: Haemodialysis vascular access in India

Word Count: 2181

Tables: 3

Figures: 4

Conflict of Interest: None

Acknowledgement: Part of this work was presented at the Kidney Week 2016, American Society of Nephrology

Address of correspondence:

Debasish Banerjee MD FASN FHEA FRCP

Renal and Transplantation Unit, St Georges University Hospital NHS Foundation trust

Cardiology Clinical Academic Group, Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute

St Georges, University of London,

G2.113 Grosvenor Wing, Blackshaw Road Tooting London SW17 0QT UK

Tel 44 2087251673 Fax 44 2087252068



Background: Despite growing number of haemodialysis (HD) patients in India, little is known about vascular access practice. We investigated the use and cost of different vascular accesses by Indian Nephrologists.

Methods: An online survey was emailed to 920 Indian nephrologists and 388 (42.1%) responded; 98.5% of whom were responsible for managing dialysis patients, 98% in hospitals.

Results: A total of 64% of patients initiated renal replacement therapy with HD, 7% with peritoneal dialysis, 10% kidney transplantation and 19% conservative care. 48% patients were self-paying, 26% had employee reimbursement and 23% had insurance. According to 59% responders, >3/4th of patients started dialysis with uncuffed catheter, <1/4th started dialysis with fistula [82% nephrologists]; very few grafts or tunnelled catheters. Among prevalent haemodialysis patients, over half of the patients were dialysing with fistula [79% nephrologists], rather than uncuffed catheters [15% nephrologists] or grafts [<1% nephrologists]. 16% reported at least one catheter related sepsis in more than ½ of patients. Placement of uncuffed catheters cost USD 160 USD (US Dollars) in 92% facilities, whereas tunnelled catheters cost USD 320 in 46%. An AVF could be created for 160 USD in 40%, and 320 USD in 90% centres. 35% of nephrologists reported grafts were not placed at their institute and the cost, where available, was 480 USD. About 46% nephrologists had access to pre-dialysis clinics, <30% to vascular access program, <17% conducted regular vascular access audits.

Conclusion: The survey provides a snapshot of the current status of vascular access care in haemodialysis patients and highlights need for pre-dialysis clinics, vascular access services and registry audits.

Key words: Haemodialysis, Vascular Access, Arteriovenous Fistula, Dialysis catheter.


Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is rapidly climbing up the list of causes of death in India. According to an Indian population-based study, the crude and age-adjusted incidence rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are 151 and 232 per million respectively (1). Hence in the entire country, potentially more than 180,000 new patients develop ESRD and may need renal replacement therapy (RRT) every year (2). According to a survey of deaths in 1.1. million households in India, the contribution of renal failure to all deaths rose by 50% between 2001-3 and 2010-13 (3). A recent global systematic survey estimated that over 70% of all patients who need RRT are unable to get it. Current estimates suggest that there are about 50,000-100,000 patients on dialysis in India, and that the Indian dialysis market is growing at the rate of 31% annually (4). This is likely to receive a further boost by the announcement of a National Dialysis Service, which will provide free or highly subsidized dialysis to most Indians (

Haemodialysis is the most common form of RRT in India. Vascular access has been considered both a lifeline as well as the Achilles Heel for this therapy. Native arteriovenous fistula (AVF) is associated with the best long term patency rates, and the lowest risk of complication and intervention. In contrast, use of catheter is associated with poorer short and long term outcomes. The pattern of vascular access use varies widely throughout the world. Low AVF use prompted the USA to start the Fistula First National Vascular Access Improvement Initiative. Other countries have put in place similar programs. Most dialysis programs have special initiatives for AVF evaluation and surveillance through special clinics manned by trained personnel.

Unfortunately, little information is available regarding the current practice patterns related to HD vascular access in India. Many ESRD patients present for HD as crash landers, which limits the opportunity to plan for a vascular access. Cost of care has been also mentioned as a limitation. This survey was done to ascertain the variations in current use of HD vascular access, and its socioeconomic determinants in India.


We developed a 26-item questionnaire using the online SurveyMonkey platform. Survey items were created by 3 authors, reviewed by other authors and pilot tested in a sample of 10 nephrologists for clarity and completeness (supplementary figure 1). The questionnaire was disseminated by an email to 920 practicing nephrologists nationwide in January 2017. The email contained instructions and a weblink to the survey which was completed on the provider platform. A reminder was sent after 2 weeks, and the survey was closed after 4 weeks. Statistical were performed in IBM SPSS version 16. Data are presented as frequencies and mean + sd.


A total of 388 nephrologists, 42% of all, completed the survey; 98% of whom were responsible for managing dialysis patients (Table1). At initiation of renal replacement therapy, an average of 64% patients were started on haemodialysis, 7% on peritoneal dialysis, 10% with kidney transplantation and 19% opted for conservative care without dialysis.

A total of 57% nephrologists reported that uncuffed catheter was the commonest access at their centre. Less than 1% nephrologists reported fistula use for first dialysis, in majority of their patients (table 2, figure 1). In prevalent patients, 8% nephrologist reported uncuffed catheter to be the long-term access in their majority of patients (table 3). About 41% of nephrologists reported fistula use in more than 75% in their prevalent dialysis patients and 20% reported less than half of their prevalent dialysis patients getting dialysis by AV fistula (figure2). About 16% of 315 nephrologists reported at least one catheter related sepsis in more than 50% of patients.

According to 63% of respondents, the cost of uncuffed catheters was less than 6,000 rupees (100 USD) and 29% reporting a cost between 6,000 and 10,000 rupees (100-160 USD). In contrast, 42% nephrologists reported the cost of tunnelled catheters at more than 20,000 rupees (320 USD). The cost of an AV fistula creation was less than 10,000 rupees (160 USD) at the facilities of about 40% of respondents (figure 3). About 35% of nephrologists reported that grafts were not placed at their institute. Where graft placement was practiced, the cost was more than 30,000 rupees (480 USD), in around 83% facilities (Figure 4).

On an average, about 48% of patients were self-paying, 26% had dialysis treatment cost reimbursed by their employees and 23% were reimbursed by insurance. A total of 96% nephrologists managed dialysis facilities located in a hospital and less than 5% managed standalone dialysis facilities.

According to 46% of the nephrologists, their patients had access to pre-dialysis clinics. However, most centres did not have such facilities. Only 29% of the nephrologists reported a dedicated vascular access care program, and 17% had regular audits of vascular access in their centre. Majority of the nephrologists (98%) were willing to take part in future projects related to vascular access or dialysis audits.


This survey shows that hemodialysis is the commonest modality of incident renal replacement therapy in India, with uncuffed temporary catheters as the vascular access. Presentation with advanced uremia, without any predialysis care and vascular access advice is very common in Indian hospitals (5). In a prospective study of 237 incident dialysis patients, 155 (65%) presented acutely, needing emergency dialysis with temporary dialysis catheters (6). In an 18-month study of 127 patients from South India, uncuffed catheter related bacteremia was seen in 15%, exit site infection in 9% and catheter colonization 24% [7].

Uncuffed catheter rates were lower and fistulae rates higher amongst prevalent patients in this survey. However, it is worth noting that despite a decline, about 30% patients were still getting dialysis through uncuffed catheter even after 3 months of initiation. This was likely influenced by economic considerations. The cost of vascular access is a burden for the healthcare systems worldwide [8], more so in the survey population where majority of the patients are self-paying. Uncuffed catheters were cheaper than AVFs in our survey but are not clearly suitable for long term dialysis. The other alternatives are even more expensive than fistulae. The variability of cost for the same procedure is remarkable in the Indian centres. The costs of creating AVFs ranged from less than 160 to over 480 USD). With an expected rise in numbers of patients on haemodialysis fixed tariffs around such procedures may help patients and insurance providers.

The influence of patient education in the choice of vascular access has been highlighted by a study done in southern part of India where only those patients started dialysis by AVF who had been educated about renal replacement therapy well in time (6). However, we found that a majority of Indian haemodialysis centers do not have vascular access programs and do not regularly audit their results.

According to most clinical practice guidelines, all efforts should be made to create a fistula before the start of dialysis [9-11]. Several studies [12-14] have shown that working native arteriovenous fistula at haemodialysis initiation is associated with improved outcomes, and reduced cost of care. In our survey, the cost of arteriovenous fistula is less than tunnelled catheters and less than one third of the cost of arterio-venous grafts. Moreover in 35% of the centres expertise for placing AV grafts is not available. Poor maturation of AVF in a predialysis patients, need for recurrent operations and hospital admissions is a cause for starting haemodialysis without fistula, primarily in the elderly and the diabetic population, as shown in the DOPPS survey [15]. The incident haemodialysis population in India, however, is younger and primary maturation rates may be higher. Encouragingly, the AVF utilization rates are higher in the prevalent population, though not close to those recommended by guidelines. Patient education by pre-dialysis nurses and vascular access service with regular audits may be the solution [16].

Our survey identifies several possible points of intervention to improve hemodialysis vascular access care. Systematic improvements are needed in pathways of care that allows timely identification and referral of pre-dialysis patients to nephrologists. Another key area is development of dedicated vascular access service. These services should be set up around vascular access nurses, and require development of a cadre of trained nephrologists, radiologists and surgeons [17]. Such services are rare in India, as shown in our survey. However, since most hemodialysis is provided in an in-hospital setting, it should be relatively easy to set up these services. With growing government funded programs, the services will be necessary in all centres. Such services can be shared by several units in geographic proximity for optimization of care and reduction of costs. With an ever-increasing population of diabetes, hypertension and obesity, incidence of CKD is rising rapidly in India. Hence more effort is necessary to prevent CKD and its progression in high risk patients.

Although our survey received a good response, and provides a snapshot of the current status of vascular access and identifies potential points of intervention, it has certain limitations. The responses are subject to recall bias, and are likely to present optimistic estimates, since centers with further suboptimal practices are less likely to respond. We collected data in categorical fields, which prevented us to arrive at more precise estimates of vascular access prevalence and costs. These limitations can only be solved by setting up a dialysis registry, which should include information on vascular access. The results also emphasize the need for pre-dialysis care along with vascular access services for pre-dialysis patients. Education for nephrologists, patients and primary care on pre-dialysis care will be essential to improve pre-dialysis care in the growing population with advanced CKD patients in India.


This survey of Indian nephrologts demonstrates that most dialysis patients in India are self-paid, and start HD with uncuffed temporary catheters. The survey highlights the need for pre-dialysis clinics, vascular access services, vascular access training, setting of fixed tariffs and registry audits to improve care of the growing number of haemodialysis patients in India.


(1) Modi GK, Jha V. The incidence of end-stage renal disease in India: a population-based study. Kidney Int 2006 Dec;70(12):2131-2133.

(2) Jha V, John O, Joshi R, Kotwal S, Essue B, Jan S, et al. Dialysis outcomes in India: a pilot study. Nephrology (Carlton) 2015 May;20(5):329-334.

(3) Dare AJ, Fu SH, Patra J, Rodriguez PS, Thakur JS, Jha P; Million Death Study Collaborators. Renal failure deaths and their risk factors in India 2001-13: nationally representative estimates from the Million Death Study. Lancet Glob Health. 2017 Jan;5(1):e89-e95.

(4) Gross A. India's dialysis market. 2013. 2013 Accessed 26 December 2015.

(5) Kulkarni MJ, Jamale T, Hase NK, Jagdish PK, Keskar V, Patil H, et al. A cross-sectional study of dialysis practice-patterns in patients with chronic kidney disease on maintenance hemodialysis. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2015 Sep;26(5):1050-1056.

(6) Swarnalatha G, Ram R, Prasad N, Dakshinamurty KV. End-stage renal disease patients on hemodialysis: a study from a tertiary care center in a developing country. Hemodial Int 2011 Jul;15(3):312-319.

(7) Gupta S, Mallya SP, Bhat A, Baliga S. Microbiology of Non-Tunnelled Catheter-Related Infections. J.Clin.Diagn.Res. 2016 Jul;10(7):DC24-8.

(8) United States Renal Data System (USRDS). USRDS 2015 annual data report: atlas of end-stage renal disease in the United States: chapter 4: vascular access. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2015. Available at

(9) Ethier JE, Lindsay RM, Barre PE, et al. Clinical practice guidelines for vascular access. Canadian Society of Nephrology. J Am Soc Nephrol. 1999;10(Suppl 13):S297–S305

(10) NKF-KDOQI Clinical practice guidelines for vascular access. Am J Kidney Dis. 2006;48(Suppl 1):S248–S272.

(11) Tordoir J, Canaud B, Haage P, et al. European best practice guidelines (EBPG) on vascular access. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2007;22(Suppl 2):ii88–ii117.

(12) Astor BC, Eustace JA, Powe NR, Klag MJ, Fink NE, Coresh J, CHOICE Study : Type of vascular access and survival among incident hemodialysis patients: The Choices for Healthy Outcomes in Caring for ESRD (CHOICE) Study. J Am Soc Nephrol 2005;16: 1449–1455

(13) Manns B, Tonelli M, Yilmaz S, Lee H, Laupland K, Klarenbach S, Radkevich V, Murphy B: Establishment and maintenance of vascular access in incident hemodialysis patients: A prospective cost analysis. J Am Soc Nephrol2 2005;16: 201–209

(14) Schon D, Blume SW, Niebauer K, Hollenbeak CS, de Lissovoy G: Increasing the use of arteriovenous fistula in hemodialysis: Economic benefits and economic barriers. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol 2007; 2: 268–276

(15) Ethier J, Mendelssohn DC, Elder SJ, Hasegawa T, Akizawa T, Akiba T, Canaud BJ, Pisoni RL: Vascular access use and outcomes: An international perspective from the dialysis outcomes and practice patterns study. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2008; 23: 3219–3226

(16) Kiaii M, MacRae JM: A dedicated vascular access program can improve arteriovenous fistula rates without increasing catheters. J Vasc Access 2008; 9: 254–259

(17) Hoggard J, Saad T, Schon D. Guidelines for Venous Access in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease A Position Statement from the American Society of Diagnostic and Interventional Nephrology Clinical Practice Committee and the Association for Vascular Access Semin Dialysis 2008; Vol 21, No 2: 186–191

Table 1: Demographic characteristics of respondents

Number of respondents 388

Female gender 18 (4.6)

Takes care of dialysis patients

Yes 382 (98.4)

No 08 (1.6)

Working in

Public sector 26 (6.7)

Private sector 362 (93.3)

Nature of dialysis centre

Part of a hospital 365 (94)

Standalone facility 23 (6)

Number of patients under the respondent’s direct care

<50101 (26)

51-100125 (32.2)

101-200110 (28.4)

251-50037 (9.5)

>50015 (3.9)

Number of dialysis sessions per month at respondent’s dialysis center

<10020 (5.1)

101-25036 (9.3)

251-50057 (14.7)

501-1000132 (34)

1001-200088 (22.7)

>200055 (14.2)


Table 2: Dialysis access in incident patients

Proportion of dialysis patients / Uncuffed catheter / Tunneled catheter / AV fistula / AV graft
>75% / 189/333(56.8%) / 9/333(2.7%) / 2/333(0.6%) / 0/333(0.0%)
51-75% / 89/333(26.7%) / 6/333(1.8%) / 11/333(3.3%) / 0/333(0.0%)
26-50% / 34/333(10.6%) / 16/333(4.8%) / 46/333(13.8%) / 5/333(1.5%)
<25% / 21/333(6.3%) / 302/333(90.7%) / 274/333(82.3%) / 328/333(98.5%)

Table 3: Dialysis access in prevalent patients

Proportion of dialysis patients / Uncuffed catheter / Tunneled catheter / AV fistula / AV graft
>75% / 26/328(7.9%) / 01/328(0.3%) / 136/328(41.5%) / 01/328(0.3%)
51-75% / 23/328(7.0%) / 02/328(0.6%) / 122/328(37.2%) / 01/328(0.3%)
26-50% / 50/328(15.2%) / 32/328(9.8%) / 39/328(11.9%) / 05/328(1.5%)
<25% / 229/328(69.8%) / 293/328(89.3%) / 31/328(9.5%) / 321/328(97.9%)

Legends of figures

Figure 1: Distribution of vascular access showing a large number of patients get their first hemodialysis by a temporary uncuffed catheter in an unplanned way

Figure 2: The bars indicate the % of nephrologists who reported at least 50% of their patients in the different access

Figure 3: The percentage of patients who can have vascular access created with less than 10,000 rupees [USD 150]

Figure 4: The approximate cost of different accesses in rupees in different centres as reported by nephrologists e.g 94% of the centres can insert an uncuffed catheter with less than 3000 Indian Rupees (USD 50), and grafts cost >30000 rupees (USD 500) in 78% centres.