Publications : 2020

Gage SM, Reichert H. 2020. Determining the incidence of needle-related complications in hemodialysis access: We need a better system. J Vascular Access.



Hemodialysis access complications are common. We hypothesize that many of these complications can be traced back to needle-related injury from routine cannulation practices or inadvertent cannulation injuries. We set out to compare the rates of hemodialysis access complications under prior and current diagnosis coding systems, determine the incidence of needle-related complications for hemodialysis access, and describe the association of needle-related complications and resulting interventions.


Arteriovenous graft and arteriovenous fistula placements occurring in the first 6 months of 2014 and 2016 were identified in the United States Renal Data System Medicare claims data. Placements were followed until end of hemodialysis access life or end of the calendar year. Diagnoses and resulting interventions occurring during placement life were identified and mapped to needle-related complication terms.


Almost 30,000 placements for 27,000 patients were followed in each year, with 67% of all accesses placed being arteriovenous fistula and 33% arteriovenous graft. In both years, 75% of arteriovenous fistulae and arteriovenous grafts required one or more interventions. Stenosis and thrombosis were the most common complications diagnosed and treated (41% and 16%, respectively); however, potential needle-related complications accounted for 6% of this dataset.


International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, was inadequate for determining the incidence of specific hemodialysis access complications or needle-related complications. International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, introduced several more hemodialysis access diagnoses but is still subject to coding confusion and catch-all coding for a variety of common and otherwise well-defined complications, suggesting that the true incidence of needle-related complications is buried in the non-specific diagnosis codes. These findings mark the clear need for an improved diagnosis coding system that consistently represents all common hemodialysis access complications.