Hemodynamic Shear Stress and Endothelial Dysfunction in Hemodialysis Access

Michelle K Fitts 1, Daniel B Pike 1, Kasey Anderson 1, Yan-Ting Shiu*, 2
1 Department of Bioengineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
2 Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

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© Fitts et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed 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 work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Medicine, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, University of Utah, 85 N. Medical Drive East, Dumke Building Room 201, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA; Tel: +1 (801) 582-1565, Ext. 1704; Fax: +1 (801) 584-5620; E-mail:


Surgically-created blood conduits used for chronic hemodialysis, including native arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) and synthetic AV grafts (AVGs), are the lifeline for kidney failure patients. Unfortunately, each has its own limitations; AVFs often fail to mature to become useful for dialysis and AVGs often fail due to stenosis as a result of neointimal hyperplasia, which preferentially forms at the graft-venous anastomosis. No clinical therapies are currently available to significantly promote AVF maturation or prevent neointimal hyperplasia in AVGs. Central to devising strategies to solve these problems is a complete mechanistic understanding of the pathophysiological processes. The pathology of arteriovenous access problems is likely multi-factorial. This review focuses on the roles of fluid-wall shear stress (WSS) and endothelial cells (ECs). In arteriovenous access, shunting of arterial blood flow directly into the vein drastically alters the hemodynamics in the vein. These hemodynamic changes are likely major contributors to non-maturation of an AVF vein and/or formation of neointimal hyperplasia at the venous anastomosis of an AVG. ECs separate blood from other vascular wall cells and also influence the phenotype of these other cells. In arteriovenous access, the responses of ECs to aberrant WSS may subsequently lead to AVF non-maturation and/or AVG stenosis. This review provides an overview of the methods for characterizing blood flow and calculating WSS in arteriovenous access and discusses EC responses to arteriovenous hemodynamics. This review also discusses the role of WSS in the pathology of arteriovenous access, as well as confounding factors that modulate the impact of WSS.

Keywords: Arteriovenous fistula, arteriovenous grafts, endothelial cells, hemodialysis vascular access, hemodynamics, shear stress..