Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Arteriovenous fistulas are considered the best option for haemodialysis provision, but as many as 30% fail to mature or suffer early failure. OBJECTIVE: To assess the feasibility of performing a randomised controlled trial that examines whether, by informing early and effective salvage intervention of fistulas that would otherwise fail, Doppler ultrasound surveillance of developing arteriovenous fistulas improves longer-term arteriovenous fistula patency. DESIGN: A prospective multicentre observational cohort study (the 'SONAR' study). SETTING: Seventeen haemodialysis centres in the UK. PARTICIPANTS: Consenting adults with end-stage renal disease who were scheduled to have an arteriovenous fistula created. INTERVENTION: Participants underwent Doppler ultrasound surveillance of their arteriovenous fistulas at 2, 4, 6 and 10 weeks after creation, with clinical teams blinded to the ultrasound surveillance findings. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Fistula maturation at week 10 defined according to ultrasound surveillance parameters of representative venous diameter and blood flow (wrist arteriovenous fistulas: ≥ 4 mm and > 400 ml/minute; elbow arteriovenous fistulas: ≥ 5 mm and > 500 ml/minute). Mixed multivariable logistic regression modelling of the early ultrasound scan data was used to predict arteriovenous fistula non-maturation by 10 weeks and fistula failure at 6 months. RESULTS: A total of 333 arteriovenous fistulas were created during the study window (47.7% wrist, 52.3% elbow). By 2 weeks, 37 (11.1%) arteriovenous fistulas had failed (thrombosed), but by 10 weeks, 219 of 333 (65.8%) of created arteriovenous fistulas had reached maturity (60.4% wrist, 67.2% elbow). Persistently lower flow rates and venous diameters were observed in those fistulas that did not mature. Models for arteriovenous fistulas' non-maturation could be optimally constructed using the week 4 scan data, with fistula venous diameter and flow rate the most significant variables in explaining wrist fistula maturity failure (positive predictive value 60.6%, 95% confidence interval 43.9% to 77.3%), whereas resistance index and flow rate were most significant for elbow arteriovenous fistulas (positive predictive value 66.7%, 95% confidence interval 48.9% to 84.4%). In contrast to non-maturation, both models predicted fistula maturation much more reliably [negative predictive values of 95.4% (95% confidence interval 91.0% to 99.8%) and 95.6% (95% confidence interval 91.8% to 99.4%) for wrist and elbow, respectively]. Additional follow-up and modelling on a subset (n = 192) of the original SONAR cohort (the SONAR-12M study) revealed the rates of primary, assisted primary and secondary patency arteriovenous fistulas at 6 months were 76.5, 80.7 and 83.3, respectively. Fistula vein size, flow rate and resistance index could identify primary patency failure at 6 months, with similar predictive power as for 10-week arteriovenous fistula maturity failure, but with wide confidence intervals for wrist (positive predictive value 72.7%, 95% confidence interval 46.4% to 99.0%) and elbow (positive predictive value 57.1%, 95% confidence interval 20.5% to 93.8%). These models, moreover, performed poorly at identifying assisted primary and secondary patency failure, likely because a subset of those arteriovenous fistulas identified on ultrasound surveillance as at risk underwent subsequent successful salvage intervention without recourse to early ultrasound data. CONCLUSIONS: Although early ultrasound can predict fistula maturation and longer-term patency very effectively, it was only moderately good at identifying those fistulas likely to remain immature or to fail within 6 months. Allied to the better- than-expected fistula patency rates achieved (that are further improved by successful salvage), we estimate that a randomised controlled trial comparing early ultrasound-guided intervention against standard care would require at least 1300 fistulas and would achieve only minimal patient benefit. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial is registered as ISRCTN36033877 and ISRCTN17399438. FUNDING: This award was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR award ref: NIHR135572) and is published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 28, No. 24. See the NIHR Funding and Awards website for further award information.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Technol Assess

Publication Date





1 - 54


ARTERIOVENOUS FISTULA, CHRONIC: HAEMODIALYSIS, DOPPLER, FEASIBILITY STUDIES, KIDNEY FAILURE, OBSERVATIONAL COHORT STUDY, RENAL DIALYSIS, ULTRASONOGRAPHY, VASCULAR ACCESS SURGERY, Humans, Renal Dialysis, Female, Male, Middle Aged, Ultrasonography, Doppler, Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical, Prospective Studies, Kidney Failure, Chronic, Aged, Vascular Patency, United Kingdom, Adult