Efficacy, safety, and cost of thrombolytic agents for the management of dysfunctional hemodialysis catheters: A systematic review

Daniel Hilleman, Jennifer Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Approximately 100,000 patients begin hemodialysis each year in the United States. Although an arteriovenous fistula or graft is the preferred method for long-term vascular access during hemodialysis, as these types of vascular access are the most reliable, approximately 30% of patients require the use of catheters to continue hemodialysis. Tunneled, cuffed hemodialysis catheters are discouraged for permanent vascular access because of their high rates of infection, morbidity and mortality, and thrombotic and technical complications. These catheters have a short functional life span and require medical intervention, often thrombolytic therapy, to treat the catheter malfunction. No thrombolytic agent is specifically indicated for the management of occluded hemodialysis catheters. Thus, we performed a systematic review to critically evaluate all available studies that examined the efficacy, safety, and cost of thrombolytic therapy for the management of dysfunctional hemodialysis catheters. Studies were included if they reported efficacy in a specific proportion of affected dysfunctional hemodialysis catheters; reported the proportion of patients experiencing an adverse outcome (especially bleeding); and described the type of catheter used, dose of thrombolytic agent, administration protocol, dwell time, definition of treatment success, time to follow-up for study end points, and sample size. Eighteen studies met the inclusion criteria. The mean ± SD success rate in clearing dysfunctional hemodialysis catheters was greatest with reteplase at 88 ± 4%, followed by alteplase at 81 ± 37% and tenecteplase at 41 ± 5%. Adverse effects associated with the use of these thrombolytic agents administered at low doses were extremely rare. No serious adverse bleeding events attributed to thrombolytic therapy were reported in any of the trials. Aliquotted reteplase from vials for intravenous use was the least costly thrombolytic agent. Thus, at centers that use high volumes of thrombolytics for dysfunctional hemodialysis catheters, reteplase is the thrombolytic agent of choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1040
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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