Aims: In the existing literature, there is a paucity of data regarding large atrial thrombus (AT) formation occurring as a complication of tunneled cuffed hemodialysis catheter (TCC) use. This study was performed to determine the risk factors, mortality and the appropriate management of TCC-AT. Methods: We report 6 new cases of TCC-AT and have amalgamated these data with data from 16 previously published cases of TCC-AT found by performing a PubMed literature search (total of 22 cases). Demographic data were collected prospectively over 2 years in 85 consecutive patients initiating hemodialysis who were using a TCC as their primary vascular access, so that comparisons could be made between the 6 patients with TCC-AT versus all patients with a TCC at our center. Results: In patients with TCC-AT, the mean time from TCC insertion was 4.5 months, and infection was present at the time of diagnosis in 68% of cases. The mean thrombus size was 3.7 cm, range 1.5-8 cm. All but 1 case were visualized by echocardiography; the remaining case required magnetic resonance imaging. Management included TCC removal and thrombectomy (n = 9), TCC removal and anticoagulation (AC) (n = 6), TCC removal alone (n = 5), and no intervention (n = 2). The overall mortality was 27%, and 5 of the 6 deaths (83%) occurred in patients with bacteremia. The mortality associated with each management strategy was as follows: TCC removal and thrombectomy (0%), TCC removal and AC (33%), TCC removal alone (40%), and no intervention (100%). Conclusions: AT is a serious complication of TCC use in hemodialysis patients and may be associated with a high mortality rate. TCC-AT may occur more commonly than previously reported and therefore warrants a high index of suspicion.
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