Conventional polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) dialysis grafts cannot be cannulated for 2-3 weeks following their creation. Polyurethane grafts, made of a self-sealing material, can be cannulated within 24 hours of implantation, representing a potential advantage in patients with limited catheter options. However, early cannulation may increase the risk of graft infection. We retrospectively queried a prospective, computerized access database to identify 31 patients receiving a polyurethane graft, and 56 date-matched controls with a PTFE graft. Survival techniques were used to plot graft survival. Thrombosis-free graft survival (from creation to first thrombosis or failure) was similar for polyurethane and PTFE grafts (1-year survival, 28%, vs. 32%, p = 0.98). Cumulative graft survival (from creation to permanent failure) was also similar (1-year survival 42% vs. 52%, p = 0.40). Finally, the cumulative risk of graft infection was 37.5% for polyurethane thigh grafts, 23% for polyurethane upper extremity grafts, 21% for PTFE thigh grafts, and 5% for PTFE upper extremity grafts (p = 0.06 for polyurethane vs. PTFE grafts). The likelihood of thrombosis and failure is similar for polyurethane and PTFE grafts. However, polyurethane grafts may have a higher risk of infection, particularly when they are placed in the thigh. In patients with an access emergency, implantation of a polyurethane graft incurs a tradeoff between earlier cannulation and a higher risk of infection.