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Drug-coated balloons: The future of hemodialysis access?

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The future of hemodialysis access?

Costs associated with the management of patients with chronic kidney disease, particularly those with end-stage renal disease requiring hemodialysis, is a huge component of the Medicare budget. The maintenance of functional vascular access in these patients remains an ongoing challenge and reduction of costs related to access failure is critical to the continued funding of the program. Traditional methods of maintaining access patency such as balloon angioplasty and bare metal stents have poor long-term outcomes, and moderate improvement is seen with the use of covered stents.

Dr. Hussain reviews the current status of drug-coated balloons (DCB) in the endovascular treatment of dysfunctional hemodialysis fistulas and grafts. Safety and efficacy data from a prospective randomized multicenter trial comparing the Bard Lutonix DCB and plain old balloon angioplasty demonstrated a significant improvement in primary patency and a 30% reduction in repeat interventions with the DCB. This led to FDA approval for the Lutonix DCB in the treatment of dysfunctional or stenotic arteriovenous fistulas. Encouraged by these results, researchers conducting ongoing international randomized trials are attempting to clarify the potential expanded indications for DCB in access stenosis. Of particular interest is the ongoing 330-patient prospective, multicenter IN-PACT trial comparing Admiral DCB to balloon angioplasty in failing arteriovenous fistulas. Both the Admiral DCB and Lutonix DCB utilize paclitaxel as the antiproliferative agent. Dr. Hussain describes the increased sensitivity of venous smooth muscle cells to paclitaxel and other antiproliferative drugs when compared with arterial smooth muscle cells. This exciting finding may explain the improved outcomes in the treatment of dialysis access lesions where pathology frequently occurs at the venous anastomosis or in the venous conduit.

Although early results with the use of DCBs are promising, ongoing clinical trials and careful analysis of data and cost effectiveness are critical to optimize outcomes in treating dialysis access dysfunction. Dr. Hussain appropriately expresses cautious optimism regarding the future of hemodialysis access with this new tool available to interventionists treating these complex patients.

Larry A. Scher, MD, is a vascular surgeon at Montefiore Einstein Center for Heart and Vascular Care, New York, and an associate medical editor for Vascular Specialist.



– Drug-coated balloons show promise of being a long-sought major advance in the endovascular treatment of stenotic arteriovenous fistulae and grafts for hemodialysis access, Syed M. Hussain, MD, said at a symposium on vascular surgery sponsored by Northwestern University.

Something significantly better than today’s standard treatment options is needed, according to Dr. Hussain. Medicare pays out more than $50 billion annually for the treatment of patients with end-stage renal disease, and a hefty chunk of that money goes for oft-repeated procedures aimed at preserving the patency of the access sites.

Dr. Syed M. Hussain

“Primary patency rates leave much room for improvement,” observed Dr. Hussain, a vascular surgeon at the Christie Clinic in Champaign, Ill.

Indeed, the 50% primary patency rate at 6 months that was optimistically declared a “reasonable goal” in the 2006 Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative is actually far-fetched using the conventional tools.

“That 50% patency at 6 months would be a tall order to try to meet. Anybody in this room that does fistulography and angioplasty knows the numbers are actually a lot lower than 50%,” said Dr. Hussain.

Plain old balloon angioplasty, the standard first-line intervention for stenotic hemodialysis access sites, has a 6-month patency rate of about 30%. Bare metal stents push the rate up to about 39%. Covered stent grafts are the most effective of the conventional treatment modalities, with a 6-month patency of 51%-53%; however, they are widely considered too expensive for routine use.

Drug-coated balloons (DCBs) have been available for close to 3 years for treatment of lower extremity peripheral artery disease, where they have achieved considerable success. The Food and Drug Administration has approved three commercially available DCBs for this purpose: Bard’s Lutonix 035 AV, Medtronic’s IN.PACT Admiral, and most recently the Stellarex DCB.


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