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Credit: Cindy Foster

Sandoval Regional Medical Center Offering New Option for Dialysis Patients

Dialysis patients need large, healthy veins that can support repeated treatments. But, until now, they often required surgery.

That is changing at The University of New Mexico’s Sandoval Regional Medical Center (SRMC) as physicians introduce a state-of-the-art technique that allows patients to begin building strong veins following a brief outpatient procedure.

The FDA only approved the new technique for use starting in January, 2019. SRMC is the only hospital in New Mexico – and one of only two in the Southwest – now offering this procedure.

It is an interdisciplinary effort that includes providers from UNM’s Interventional Radiology, Interventional Nephrology and Vascular Surgery divisions.

An arteriovenous fistula (AVF) is typically created when a surgeon directly connects a person's artery and a vein after making a small incision and then suturing the vessels together. As the arterial blood flows into the vein, the vein will begin to grow larger and stronger. Within six weeks, the fistula will usually mature to a point where it can be used for many years of dialysis, according to vascular surgeon Mark Langsfeld, MD, Professor of Surgery at UNM .

Research has shown patients who have had an AVF created have lower rates of infection and hospitalization throughout their dialysis treatment. However, these surgical fistulas can have several other problems, mainly failing to mature or clotting off.

With the new technique being used at SRMC, doctors connect the vein and artery by simply puncturing a vein through the skin, and then, with the use of ultrasound, maneuvering the new FDA approved device to connect a vein to an artery without the need for suturing. The procedure is usually completed within an hour and can be done under local anesthesia.

“It is revolutionary for a patient who needs to begin dialysis but has been dreading the prospect of surgery,” Langsfeld says. “It provides good vascular access while reducing the pain and suffering associated with traditional fistula surgery. Finally, no incision should also mean less inflammation and scarring.”

Globally, more than two million patients are receiving dialysis treatments, and that number is only expected to grow during the next 20 years.

Being able to bring the new technique to New Mexico so quickly after the FDA granted its approval is one benefit for the hospital being affiliated with an academic medical center, says Jamie Silva-Steele, RN, MBA, SRMC’s chief operating officer.

“We are committed to serving the communities of New Mexico” she says. “Being part of the UNM Health Sciences academic medical center means we can provide our patients with access to numerous clinical trials and services based on the latest research and advances in medicine.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the SRMC general information number at 505-994-7000 or the SRMC Physician clinics at 505-994-7397. Dr Langsfeld can also be reached through the UNM PALS line at 272-2000, or 1-888-UNM-PALS.

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