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Hemodialysis access - self care

An access is needed for you to get hemodialysis. Using the access, blood is removed from your body, cleaned by a dialyzer, then returned to your body.

Usually the access is put in a person's arm. But it can also go in your leg. It takes a few weeks to a few months to get an access ready for hemodialysis.

Taking good care of your access helps make it last longer.

Prevent Infection in Your Access

Keep your access clean. Wash the access with soap and water every day to decrease your risk of infection.

DO NOT scratch your access. If you scratch open your skin at the access, you could get an infection.

To prevent infection:

  • Avoid bumping or cutting your access.
  • DO NOT lift anything heavy with the arm with the access.
  • Use your access for hemodialysis only.
  • DO NOT let anyone take your blood pressure, draw blood, or start an IV in the arm with the access.

Keep Blood Flowing Through Your Access

To keep blood flowing through the access:

  • DO NOT sleep or lie on the arm with the access.
  • DO NOT wear clothes that are tight around the arms or wrists.
  • DO NOT wear jewelry that is tight around the arms or wrists.

Checking Your Access

Check the pulse in your access arm. You should feel blood rushing through that feels like a vibration. This vibration is called a "thrill."

Have the nurse or technician check your access before every dialysis.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have any signs of infection, including redness, pain, pus, drainage, or you have a fever over 101°F (38.3°C).
  • You do not feel a pulse at your access.

Alternative Names

Kidney failure - chronic-hemodialysis access; Renal failure - chronic-hemodialysis access; Chronic renal insufficiency - hemodialysis access; Chronic kidney failure - hemodialysis access; Chronic renal failure - hemodialysis access; dialysis - hemodialysis access

References

National Kidney Foundation. Hemodialysis Access: What You Need to Know. Available at: www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/11-50-0216_va.pdf. Accessed October 16, 2015.

Yeun JY, Ornt DB, Depner TA. Hemodialysis. In: Taal MW, Chertow GM, Marsden PA, et al., eds. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 64.

Update Date 9/22/2015

Updated by: Charles Silberberg, DO, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology, Affiliated with New York Medical College, Division of Nephrology, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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