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Papers of the Week

2022 Mar 27

J Vasc Access

Intractable arteriovenous access-related pain relieved after a single, pain-free hemodialysis session under selective block of the sensory nerves in the upper limb: A psychosocial factorial case.


Intractable arteriovenous access (AVA)-related pain can not only lead to abandonment of a well-functioning AVA, but can also cause hemodialysis (HD) patients to be unwilling to accept, interrupt, or withdraw from HD. Such pain primarily derives from nociceptive and neuropathic factors caused by mechanical stimulation of needle cannulation; however, this might be related to psychosocial factors making it difficult for patients to accept their dependency on HD. Furthermore, the pain can be complicated by the interaction of biological and psychosocial factors, which hampers appropriate pain management and treatment. However, there have been few investigations pertaining to this matter. Herein, we describe the case of an HD patient who experienced chronic refractory AVA-related pain during a 32-month period of HD sessions, which occasionally caused treatment interruption. After clinical inquiry, physical evaluation, and ultrasonographic assessment of the blood circulation and cutaneous nerves in the ipsilateral upper limb to the radiocephalic arteriovenous fistula in the anatomical snuffbox, we diagnosed the patient with primarily psychosocially driven pain in consultation with an experienced pain clinician. A single, pain-free HD session under ultrasound-guided sensory nerve blocks in the upper limb markedly relieved her pain, followed by HD sessions with subtle but acceptable pain. This report provides insights into the mechanism underlying the vicious cycle of AVA-related pain, including the psychosocial aspects that might trigger such pain, as well as into the importance of treating such pain to improve the patient's quality of life, and underscores the need for cooperation of experts engaged in HD and pain management.