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Dialysis Access Maintenance


Understanding Dialysis

patient monitored by electronic sphygmomanometer during dialysis session

Dialysis is a procedure that is routinely performed on patients diagnosed with acute/chronic renal failure, or end-stage renal disease. The process involves removing waste substances and fluid from the blood that are normally eliminated by the kidneys. During dialysis treatment, the patient is connected to a machine by way of a flexible plastic tube that pumps blood from the body, cleans it and safely returns it to the body through a separate tube. This is known as dialysis access and often referred to as the “lifeline.”

Dialysis Access

A hemodialysis access, or vascular access, is a way to reach the blood for hemodialysis. The access allows blood to travel through soft tubes to the dialysis machine where it is cleaned as it passes through a special filter, called a dialyzer. An access is placed by a minor surgery.

There two several methods used for patients with renal failure who are expected to need long or short-term dialysis treatment. Fistulas and grafts are usually placed in the arm, but may also be placed in the leg. They are surgically placed a few months before dialysis is scheduled to begin in order to allow for the site to heal and develop properly. A Vascular catheter is placed in the neck to provide quick access in the event of an emergency. To learn more about the different types of dialysis access click here.

If your access is a fistula or graft, your nurse or technician will place two needles into the access at the beginning of each treatment. These needles are connected to soft tubes that go to the dialysis machine. Your blood goes to the machine through one of the tubes, gets cleaned in the dialyzer, and returns to you through the other tube. If your access is a catheter, it can be connected directly to the dialysis tubes without the use of needles.

Maintenance of Access Site

To keep the access site clean and healthy, patients should:

  • Keep access site clean
  • Do not sleep on access site or carry heavy items
  • Do not use arm with access site for blood draws or blood pressure measurements
  • Do not allow any other type of injection into the access site
  • Clothing or accessories worn on the arm should be loose and non-constricting
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet detailing dialysis treatment with location and type of vascular access

Atlanta Vascular and Vein Center has 2 locations:  Lawrenceville and Alpharetta, GA. They treat patients living in and around Metro Atlanta,  Duluth, Dacula, and Johns Creek. Call 678-878-4555 today to schedule an appointment today.