SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.13 issue1Hybrid treatment of bullet embolism at the abdominal aortic bifurcation, complicated with thoracoabdominal aorta pseudoaneurysm and common iliac artery occlusion: case reportEmbolization of splenic artery aneurysm associated with gastrointestinal bleeding: case report author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links


Jornal Vascular Brasileiro

Print version ISSN 1677-5449On-line version ISSN 1677-7301

J. vasc. bras. vol.13 no.1 Porto Alegre Jan./Mar. 2014 

Case Reports

Transposition of cephalic vein to rescue hemodialysis access arteriovenous fistula and treat symptomatic central venous obstruction

Felipe Jose Skupien 1  

Ricardo Zanetti Gomes 1  

Emerson Hideyoshi Shimada 1  

Rafael Inacio Brandao 1  

Suellen Vienscoski Skupien 2  

1Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Ponta Grossa - Ponta Grossa, PR, Brazil

2Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa - UEPG, Ponta Grossa, PR, Brazil


It is known that stenosis or central venous obstruction affects 20 to 50% of patients who undergo placement of catheters in central veins. For patients who are given hemodialysis via upper limbs, this problem causes debilitating symptoms and increases the risk of loss of hemodialysis access. We report an atypical case of treatment of a dialysis patient with multiple comorbidities, severe swelling and pain in the right upper limb (RUL), few alternative sites for hemodialysis vascular access, a functioning brachiobasilic fistula in the RUL and severe venous hypertension in the same limb, secondary to central vein occlusion of the internal jugular vein and right brachiocephalic trunk. The alternative surgical treatment chosen was to transpose the RUL cephalic vein, forming a venous necklace at the anterior cervical region, bypassing the site of venous occlusion. In order to achieve this, we dissected the cephalic vein in the right arm to its junction with the axillary vein, devalved the cephalic vein and anastomosed it to the contralateral external jugular vein, providing venous drainage to the RUL, alleviating symptoms of venous hypertension and preserving function of the brachiobasilic fistula.

Key words: arteriovenous fistula; central venous obstruction; venous transposition; exotic vein graft; venous bypass


To describe an atypical case in which vascular access for hemodialysis was preserved and central venous obstruction treated.


A patient with few remaining options for vascular access presented with a functioning brachiobasilic fistula in the right upper limb (RUL), associated with severe venous hypertension, and occlusion of the internal jugular vein and the right brachiocephalic trunk.

We decided to transpose the RUL cephalic vein, forming a venous necklace in the anterior cervical region, bypassing the site of venous occlusion.

In order to achieve this, we dissected the cephalic vein in the right arm to its junction with the axillary vein, devalved the cephalic vein and anastomosed it to the contralateral external jugular vein, providing venous drainage to the RUL, alleviating symptoms of venous hypertension and preserving function of the brachiobasilic fistula.


Reduction of edema, pain and venous congestion in the RUL, in addition to preservation of an arteriovenous fistula (AVF) that was already mature and functioning.


Stenosis or central venous obstruction affects 20 to 50% of patients who undergo placement of catheters in the subclavian or internal jugular vein.1 , 2 Many of these patients can remain symptomless for long periods because of the rich network of collateral veins to maintain venous drainage from the upper limb. In patients with functioning arteriovenous fistulae, this can lead to venous hypertension, edema of the limb and failure of vascular access.3

Percutaneous angioplasty, with or without placement of stents or other endovascular devices (HeRO, for example),4 , 5 has been evolving and is becoming ever more common, taking its place in the arsenal of options for treating such patients.

The simpler treatment options include rest and elevation and elastic compression of the limb, or deactivation of the AVF (although this option involves sacrificing the access and subjects patients to further central catheterization until the next AVF matures).

The following surgical options are described in isolated case reports and case series

  • Bypass of an occluded subclavian (with prosthesis) to the ipsilateral internal jugular, contralateral internal jugular, axillo-axillary;1 , 6

  • Axillo-axillary, brachial-internal jugular, axillary-ipsilateral or contralateral internal jugular bypass; bypass of fistula to jugular vein, of fistula to contralateral subclavian;1 , 7 - 10

  • Bypass to veins of the lower limbs (axillo-iliac, axillo-popliteal, axillo-femoral, axillo-saphenous);9 , 11

  • Bypass with interposition of the contralateral internal jugular vein12 , 13 or transposition of the ipsilateral jugular vein to the occluded segment;10 , 14

  • Bypass to the right atrial appendage15 , 16 and to the innominate vein;17

  • Banding of the access to control fistula flow;18

  • Arteriovenous axillary loop graft;19

  • Anterior jugular-internal jugular bypass.20

Some authors consider that many stenoses or occlusions become symptomatic in dialysis patients because of extrinsic compression and recommend that in such cases Thoracic Outlet Syndrome should be considered.21 In some case series, surgical treatment with resection of the first rib or of the clavicle, and liberation of external adherences to the subclavian vein salvaged access and relieved symptoms in up to 80% of patients.22

The patient described here had a brachiobasilic AVF in the RUL that had been functioning for approximately 6 months; but edema and pain prompted a request for additional vascular assessment.

Native accesses were exhausted in the left upper limb (LUL) and the right forearm and the left lower limb had been subjected to prior saphenectomy for myocardial revascularization, and both lower limbs had venous insufficiency (CEAP C 4). The patient also had histories of ischemic claudication in lower limbs, diabetes, hypertension, prior smoking habit and myocardial infarction.

Investigation included Doppler venous ultrasound, angiotomography of the thorax and phlebography, which confirmed occlusion of the internal jugular vein and right brachiocephalic trunk (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1 Occlusion of right brachiocephalic trunk. 

Figure 2 Occlusion of internal jugular vein and right brachiocephalic trunk, and rich network of collateral veins. 

Venous Doppler ultrasound of the RUL showed a mature brachiobasilic AVF and a cephalic vein that was patent in the arm up to its junction with the axillary vein, from where onwards it exhibited pulsating reverse flow- due to retrograde transmission from the axillary vein (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Doppler ultrasound showing right cephalic vein with reversed, pulsating flow. 

Conservative treatment comprised elevation of the limb, use of binding and elastic armbands, but there was no significant improvement in symptoms.

We recommended endovascular intervention. However, this would have entailed transferring the patient to a different city and both the patient and her family members refused.

We therefore chose an option designed to preserve AVF function while reducing venous hypertension in the RUL. To achieve this, under local anesthetic (brachial plexus block) we dissected the cephalic vein (patent in the distal third of the arm) up to its junction with the axillary vein. Using a Mills valvulotome, we achieved pulsating flow in the entire cephalic vein.

Under supplementary local anesthetic to the anterior cervical region, we dissected the left external jugular vein, tunneled the devalved right cephalic vein and created a terminal-lateral anastomosis with the left external jugular vein.

At the end of surgery, we observed a thrill in the transposed cephalic vein necklace and also at the brachiobasilic AVF.

The procedure was accomplished without intercurrent conditions and, after surgery, the patient continued her normal hemodialysis program, using the same access as prior to surgery (basilic vein of right arm) and her right upper limb edema gradually receded (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Right upper limb twelve months after surgery. 

More than thirteen months after surgery, the fistula was still functioning, the patient was on hemodialysis three times a week and had no further complaints caused by venous hypertension of her right upper limb.


Our case bears out what is to be expected from data described in the literature, including primary patency rates of around 85% after twelve months,3 mean duration of access function of 9 months and 88% of cases with improvement in symptoms.23

Although rare, like other exotic grafts described in the literature, the treatment described here is an effective option for preserving dialysis vascular access in patients with central venous occlusion.


1. Chandler NM, Mistry BM, Garvin PJ. Surgical Bypass for Subclavian Vein Occlusion in Hemodialysis Patients. J Am Coll Surg. 2002;194:416-21. ]

2. Vanherweghem JL. Thrombosis and stenosis of central venous access in hemodialysis. Nephrologie. 1994;15(2):117-21. PMid:8047195. [ Links ]

3. Jakimowicz T, Galazka Z, Grochowiecki T, Nazarewski S, Szmidt J. Vascular Access for Haemodialysis in Patients with Central Vein Thrombosis. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2011;42:842-9. PMid:21852162. ]

4. Chen GJ, Anaya-Ayala JE, Ismail N, Smolock CJ, Davies MG. Successful Use of the HeRO Device to Salvage a Functional Arteriovenous Fistula and Resolve Symptoms of Venous Hypertension. EJVES Extra. 2011;22:37-9. ]

5. Gage SM, Ahluwalia HS, Lawson JH. Salvaging vascular access and treatment of severe limb edema: case reports on the novel use of the hemodialysis reliable outflow vascular access device. Ann Vasc Surg. 2011;25(3):387.e1-5 . [ Links ]

6. Bachleda P, Utikal P, Kalinova L, et al. Operating management of central venous hypertension complicating upper extremity dialysis access. Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2008;152(1):155-8. PMid:18795092. ]

7. Suliman A, Greenberg JI, Angle N. Surgical Bypass of Symptomatic Central Venous Obstruction for Arteriovenous Fistula Salvage in Hemodialysis Patients. Ann Vasc Surg. 2008;22:203-9. PMid:18346573. ]

8. Montagnac R, Bourquelot P, Schillinger F. Arteriovenous fistula complicated by "fat arm" caused by proximal venous occlusion--salvage by axillo-jugular crossing bypass. Nephrologie. 1993;14(5):239-42. PMid:8159254. [ Links ]

9. Chemla ES, Korrakuti L, Makanjuola D, Chang RW. Vascular Access in Hemodialysis Patients with Central Venous Obstruction or Stenosis: One Center's Experience. Ann Vasc Surg. 2005;19:692-8. PMid:16052387. ]

10. Sottiurai VS, Lyon R, Ross C, Cooper M. Surgical Management of Brachioaxillary-subclavian Vein Occlusion. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 1996;11:225-9. ]

11. Kavallieratos N, Kokkinos A, Kalocheretis P. Axillary to saphenous vein bypass for treatment of central venous obstruction in patients receiving dialysis. J Vasc Surg. 2004;40:640-3. PMid:15472589. ]

12. Hoballah JJ, Eid GE, Nazzal MM, Sharp WJ, Corson JD. Contralateral Internal Jugular Vein Interposition for Salvage of a Functioning Arteriovenous Fistula. Ann Vasc Surg. 2000; 14:679-82. PMid:11128468. ]

13. Tordoir JHM, Leunissen KLM. Jugular vein transposition of the subclavian vein obstruction in haemodialysis patients. Eur J Vasc Surg. 1993;7:335-8. ]

14. Puskas JD, Gertler JP. Internal jugular to axillary vein bypass for subclavian vein thrombosis in the setting of brachial arteriovenous fistula. J Vasc Surg. 1994;19:939-42. ]

15. El-Sabrout RA, Duncan JM. Right atrial bypass grafting for central venous obstruction associated with dialysis access: Another treatment option. J Vasc Surg. 1999;29:472-8. ]

16. Glass C, Maevsky V, Massey T, Illig K. Subclavian Vein to Right Atrial Appendage Bypass without Sternotomy to Maintain Arteriovenous Access in Patients with Complete Central Vein Occlusion, a New Approach. Ann Vasc Surg. 2009;23:465-8. PMid:19359137. ]

17. Criado E, Marston WA, Jaques PF, Mauro MA, Keagy BA. Proximal Venous Outflow Obstruction in Patients With Upper Extremity Arteriovenous Dialysis Access. Ann Vasc Surg. 1994;8:530-5. PMid:7865390. ]

18. Jennings WC, Miller GA, Coburn MZ, Howard CA, Lawless MA. Vascular access flow reduction for arteriovenous fistula salvage in symptomatic patients with central venous occlusion. J Vasc Access. 2012;13(2):157-62. PMid:21983828. ]

19. Frampton AE, Hossain M, Hamidian Jahromi A, Morsy M, Chemla ES. Rescue of an axillary-axillary arteriovenous graft not amenable to endovascular intervention by formation of an axillary loop: a case report. J Vasc Access. 2010;11(1):89. [ Links ]

20. Bacciu PP, Porcu P, Piredda F, Casu MA, Marongiu GM, Gherli T. Anterior jugular-internal jugular bypass to salvage a dialysis arteriovenous fistula. J Mal Vasc. 2002; 27(3):165-9. PMid:12232533. [ Links ]

21. Illig KA. Management of Central Vein Stenoses and Occlusions: The Critical Importance of the Costoclavicular Junction. Semin Vasc Surg. 2011;24:113-8. PMid:21889100. ]

22. Glass C, Dugan M, Gillespie D, Doyle A, Illig K. Costoclavicular venous decompression in patients with threatened arteriovenous hemodialysis access. Ann Vasc Surg. 2011;25(5):640-5. PMid:21514107. ]

23. Anaya-Ayala JE, Bellows PH, Ismail N, et al. Surgical Management of Hemodialysis- Related Central Venous Occlusive Disease: A Treatment Algorithm. Ann Vasc Surg. 2011;25:1. PMid:21172586. ]

Financial support: None.

*All authors have read and approved of the final version of the article submitted to J Vasc Bras.

The study was carried out at Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Ponta Grossa. This study was presented as a poster at 40° Congresso Brasileiro de Angiologia e de Cirurgia Vascular, held in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Received: September 15, 2013; Accepted: November 11, 2013

Correspondence Felipe Jose Skupien Felipe Jose Skupien Rua Santana, 200 - Centro CEP 84010-320 - Ponta Grossa (PR), Brasil Fone: (42) 3028-0033 Fax: (42) 3028.3033 E-mail:

Conflicts of interest: No conflicts of interest declared concerning the publication of this article.

Author's information FJS é Cirurgião Vascular da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Ponta Grossa (SCMPG). RZG é Chefe do Serviço de Cirurgia Vascular da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Ponta Grossa (SCMPG). EHS é Médico Residente em Cirurgia Vascular da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Ponta Grossa (SCMPG). RIB é Cirurgião Vascular da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Ponta Grossa (SCMPG). SVS é Docente do Departamento de Enfermagem e Saúde Pública da Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa (UEPG); Mestranda em Tecnologia em Saúde pela Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná (PUC-PR).

Author's contributions Conception and design: FJS Analysis and interpretation: FJS Data collection: FJS, EHS Writing the article: FJS, SVS Critical revision of the article: FJS, RZG, EHS, RIB, SVS Final approval of the article*: FJS, RZG, EHS, RIB, SVS Statistical analysis: N/A Overall responsibility: FJS Obtained funding: None.

Creative Commons License This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original work is properly cited.