Thoracic outlet decompression for subclavian venous stenosis after ipsilateral hemodialysis access creation

Published:March 03, 2021DOI:



      Central venous stenosis is one of the most challenging complications in patients requiring hemodialysis. Venous thoracic outlet syndrome is an underappreciated cause of central venous stenosis in patients requiring dialysis that can result in failed percutaneous intervention and loss of a functioning dialysis access. Limited data exist about the safety and outcomes of first rib resection in patients requiring hemodialysis, and the results have been confounded by the various surgical approaches used. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the safety, operative outcomes, and patency of the existing dialysis access after transaxillary thoracic outlet decompression.


      A retrospective medical record review was performed from January 2008 to December 2019 of patients who had undergone thoracic outlet decompression for subclavian vein stenosis with ipsilateral upper extremity hemodialysis access. The baseline characteristics and comorbidities were reviewed. The operative and postoperative course were evaluated. The survival and patency rates were analyzed using the life-table method and Kaplan-Meier curve.


      A total of 18 extremities in 18 patients were identified. Their mean age was 59 ± 11 years, and 89% were men. A total of 13 fistulas and 5 grafts were included. All patients had undergone repair via a transaxillary approach. First rib resection, anterior scalenectomy, and circumferential venolysis were performed in all 18 patients. The mean operative time was 99 ± 19 minutes, with an estimated blood loss of 78 ± 66 mL. The median length of stay was 2 days. No patient had died at 30 days. The survival rate at 1 year was 83%. The primary, primary-assisted, and secondary patency at 1 year were 42%, 69%, and 93%, respectively.


      Thoracic outlet decompression via the transaxillary approach is a technically feasible and safe operation in patients with ipsilateral upper extremity hemodialysis access. Patients with threatened dialysis access due to subclavian vein stenosis should be carefully evaluated for possible extrinsic compression at the costoclavicular junction. These patients might benefit from transaxillary first rib resection, scalenectomy, and venolysis.


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