Upper extremity arterial endovascular interventions for symptomatic vascular access-induced steal syndrome

Tracy J. Cheun, Lalithapriya Jayakumar, Matthew J. Sideman, Lori L. Pounds, Mark G. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Critical hand ischemia owing to vascular access-induced steal syndrome (VASS) continues to be a significant problem. The aim of this study was to examine the outcomes of arterial endovascular interventions in the upper extremity of patients presenting with VASS. Methods: A database of patients presenting with documented VASS between 2006 and 2016 was retrospectively queried. Patients who underwent isolated endovascular intervention in the upper extremity were analyzed. Results: Ninety-eight patients (66% female; average age 65 years) presented with VASS: 28 presented with upper arm atherosclerotic disease above the arteriovenous (AV) anastomosis (above elbow) and the remaining 70 patients with below AV anastomotic atherosclerotic disease at the elbow (below elbow). Sixty-three percent of the entire patient cohort (N = 65) presented with rest pain and the remainder (n = 33 [34%]) with minor digital ulceration. Of those with upper arm disease above the AV anastomosis, one-third of patients had subclavian occlusive disease and two-thirds had brachial artery occlusive disease. Patients with subclavian disease underwent stent placement, and patients with brachial artery disease underwent balloon angioplasty. Technical success was 100% (n = 28). Ninety-one percent of these patients (n = 25) had symptomatic success at 30 days and the remainder (n = 3) required proximalization of the access. Of those with below AV anastomosis at the elbow disease, all had disease in the forearm vessels with 42% (n = 29) having either the ulnar or radial artery occlusion. Balloon angioplasty was performed in one vessel in 55% (n = 38) and in two vessels in 45% (n = 32) of patients. Technical success was 79% (n = 81 of 102 vessels) with 51% of the patients (n = 36) having symptomatic success at 30 days; of those who remained symptomatic, 80% (n = 27) required proximalization of the access and 20% (n = 7) required ligation. The major adverse cardiovascular event rate for the entire patient cohort was 4% (n = 4). The 30-day complications for the entire patient cohort included continued steal (38%; all resolved with secondary procedures), thrombosis (3%; all forearm vessels treated for occlusion), bleeding (0%), infection (0%), and mortality (1%). Primary clinical success defined as the relief of distal ischemic symptoms and the preservation of a functional access site for dialysis showed rates of 42 ± 9% (mean ± standard error of the mean) and 0 ± 0% at 5 years (above and below elbow groups, respectively). Conclusions: Upper extremity interventions for VASS owing to above elbow disease are associated with a high rate of success, whereas interventions for below elbow disease have a poor clinical success with more patients requiring secondary procedures and low long-term survival for the access site. Male patients presenting with rest pain, larger forearm vessels (approximately 3 mm), short occlusive lesions (<100 mm), two-vessel runoff, and an intact palmer arch are good candidates for below elbow interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1896-1903.e1
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Bypass
  • Critical ischemia
  • Endovascular
  • Outcomes
  • Upper extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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