For individuals with kidney failure or other kidney-related disorders, hemodialysis treatment is often necessary to filter waste and excess fluid from the blood. Dialysis access, the point through which blood is removed from the body and filtered through a dialysis machine during hemodialysis, is a critical component of successful treatment. Here’s what patients should know about dialysis access and how to care for it properly.
Types of Dialysis Access
There are three primary types of dialysis access: arteriovenous (AV) fistula, arteriovenous (AV) graft, and central venous catheter (CVC).
Arteriovenous (AV) Fistula
An AV fistula is a surgical connection between an artery and a vein in the arm or leg. This type of access is the preferred method for hemodialysis treatment because it allows for increased blood flow and is more durable than other types of access. AV fistulas are created by connecting a vein and an artery in a surgical procedure, typically in the patient’s forearm. Over time, the vein grows larger and stronger, making it easier to access for hemodialysis treatment.
Arteriovenous (AV) Graft
An AV graft is a synthetic tube that connects an artery and a vein in the arm or leg. This type of access is often used when an AV fistula cannot be created due to the condition of the patient’s veins. AV grafts are less durable than AV fistulas but still allow for increased blood flow and easy access for hemodialysis treatment.
Central Venous Catheter (CVC)
A central venous catheter (CVC) is a catheter that is placed into a large vein in the neck, chest, or groin. CVCs are typically used as a temporary solution when other types of access are not available or cannot be used. CVCs are the least preferred type of dialysis access because they have a higher risk of infection, blood clots, and other complications.
Caring for Dialysis Access
Regular monitoring and maintenance of dialysis access are necessary to prevent complications such as infections, blood clots, and narrowing or blockage of the access point. Patients receiving hemodialysis treatment should work closely with their healthcare providers to ensure proper dialysis access and overall well-being care.
Keep the Access Site Clean
It’s essential to keep the dialysis access site clean to prevent infections. Patients should wash their hands thoroughly before touching the access site and avoid wearing tight clothing or jewelry that could cause irritation or injury to the access site.
Monitor for Signs of Infection
Patients should monitor their dialysis access site for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, tenderness, or drainage. Patients should contact their healthcare provider immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
Avoid Activities that Could Damage the Access Site
Patients should avoid activities that could damage the dialysis access site, such as carrying heavy objects or sleeping on the arm with an AV fistula or graft. Patients should also avoid blood pressure cuffs and IVs on the arm with the dialysis access site.
Take Medications as Prescribed
Patients should take all medications their healthcare provider prescribes to prevent blood clots and infections. Medications may include antibiotics or blood thinners.
Attend All Dialysis Appointments
Regular dialysis treatments are essential to maintaining good health and preventing complications. Patients should attend all scheduled dialysis appointments and notify their healthcare provider if they cannot make an appointment.
Stay Active and Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help improve overall health and blood flow to the dialysis access site.