Cuffed tunneled venous access catheters are commonly used for temporary and permanent access in hemodialysis (HD) patients. These catheters serve an essential role in providing permanent access in subjects in whom all other access options have been exhausted. The predominant complications are catheter thrombosis, catheter fibrin sheating and infection. The aim of this study was to evaluate long-term survival and complications of permanent venous catheters (PVC) placed for the purpose of HD during the period from January 1992 to December 1998, at the Dialysis Units of Lucania (a southern Italian region). A total of 98 PVC were placed in 88 patients during this period. The catheters used were of three types: (a) 72 VasCath Soft Cell catheters (Bard Instrument Company, Toronto, Ont., Canada); (b) 22 PermCath catheters (Quinton Instrument Company, Seattle, Wash., USA), and (c) 4 Tesio catheters (Bellco SpA, Mirandola, Italy). Survival curves of catheters were calculated using the Kaplan-Meier product-limit estimator. The patient survival was 60% at the 78th month. Actually, 52 patients (27 males, 25 females) are still alive: 15 (26.9%) of these patients have diabetes mellitus and 1 has been transplanted. The actuarial survival rate of PVC was 89% in the whole population studied and 82% in subjects alive after 84 months. Twenty-five patients (28.4%) had PVC as the first reliable vascular access. Long-term complications occurred 27 times (1 episode every 44.81 month/patient) as: breakage (3.1%); thrombosis (10.2%); displacement (2.0%); subcutaneous tunnel bleeding (3.1%); inadequate blood flow (7.1%), and infection (10.2%). In conclusion, our data confirm that PVC might represent an effective long-term blood access route for HD. Again, PVC are getting the access of choice for selected patients (i.e., older subjects with cardiovascular diseases and cancer patients) and are enjoying a dramatic increase in use for subjects who are terrified of repetitive venopuncture.