Vascularization of the arteriovenous fistula wall and association with maturation outcomes

Juan C. Duque, Laisel Martinez, Marwan Tabbara, Punam Parikh, Angela Paez, Guillermo Selman, Loay H. Salman, Omaida C. Velazquez, Roberto I. Vazquez-Padron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and objectives: The venous vasa vasorum is the mesh of microvessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the walls of large veins. Whether changes to the vasa vasorum have any effects on human arteriovenous fistula outcomes remains undetermined. In this study, we challenged the hypothesis that inadequate vascularization of the arteriovenous fistula wall is associated with maturation failure. Design, setting, participants, and measurements: This case–control pilot study includes pre-access veins and arteriovenous fistula venous samples (i.e. tissue pairs) from 30 patients undergoing two-stage arteriovenous fistula creation (15 matured and 15 failed to mature). Using anti-CD31 immunohistochemistry, we quantified vasa vasorum density and luminal area (vasa vasorum area) in the intima, media, and adventitia of pre-access veins and fistulas. We evaluated the association of pre-existing and postoperative arteriovenous fistula vascularization with maturation failure and with postoperative morphometry. Results: Vascularization of veins and arteriovenous fistulas was predominantly observed in the outer media and adventitia. Only the size of the microvasculature (vasa vasorum area), but not the number of vessels (vasa vasorum density), increased after arteriovenous fistula creation in the adventitia (median vasa vasorum area 1366 µm2/mm2 (interquartile range 495–2582) in veins versus 3077 µm2/mm2 (1812–5323) in arteriovenous fistulas, p < 0.001), while no changes were observed in the intima and media. Postoperative intimal thickness correlated with lower vascularization of the media (r 0.53, p = 0.003 for vasa vasorum density and r 0.37, p = 0.045 for vasa vasorum area). However, there were no significant differences in pre-existing, postoperative, or longitudinal change in vascularization between arteriovenous fistulas with distinct maturation outcomes. Conclusion: The lack of change in intimal and medial vascularization after arteriovenous fistula creation argues against higher oxygen demand in the inner walls of the fistula during the vein to arteriovenous fistula transformation. Postoperative intimal hyperplasia in the arteriovenous fistula wall appears to thrive under hypoxic conditions. Vasa vasorum density and area by themselves are not predictive of maturation outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-168
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Vascular Access
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Vasa vasorum
  • arteriovenous fistula
  • intimal hyperplasia
  • maturation
  • vascularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Nephrology


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