Chronic Dialysis Patients: Tips to Care for Your Vascular Access at Home

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
July 19, 2021

The kidneys play a vital role in maintaining a balanced internal system. In the occurrence of kidney failure, patients are introduced to dialysis.

What Is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a renal replacement technique (RRT) that replaces the function of the kidneys by removing excess waste, fluids, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, and salts.  

The following are terms dialysis patients should familiarize themselves with.


Hemodialysis is a lifesaving dialysis treatment. The process controls blood pressure and balances the levels of toxins in the body. The hemodialysis machine filters the blood through the dialyzer, or “artificial kidney,” and returns it into the body.  

Vascular Access

An access point into the blood vessels is needed to retrieve blood into the dialyzer. Usually, vascular access is placed in the forearm. In some cases, it can be created in the neck or leg region. Common forms of vascular access include the AV fistula, AV graft, and venous catheter.

AV Fistula: An arteriovenous (AV) fistula is the surgically assembled union of artery and vein. This connection raises blood flow through the veins increasing the effectiveness of dialysis filtration. This access is predominantly placed on the nondominant arm.

AV Graft: Comparable to the AV fistula, the AV graft is a u-shaped, synthetic tube placed beneath the skin. It connects the artery and vein much like the AV fistula. The graft acts like a vein carrying blood through the access for filtration.

Dialysis Catheter: A dialysis catheter is surgically placed in the central vein of the neck. The catheter is a small plastic tube with an opening on either end allowing the passage of blood into the dialysis machine.

How to Care for your AF Fistula and AV Graft Vascular Access at Home

Follow these guidelines to avoid complications.

● Do not expose the catheter to the air.

● Have all supplies needed, prepared, and in one location.

●  Before treatment, wash the access arm with antibacterial soap and softly pat dry.

● Only use the access for dialysis treatment.

● Avoid sleeping on or applying pressure to the access area.

●  Do not carry heavy loads with your access arm.

● Avoid tight clothes or jewelry around the access site.

● You may alternate the injection site as needed.

●  Avoid blunt trauma to the access area.

● Do not apply too much pressure to the access point after the removal of the needle.

● Keep the site clean.

Specific Care for the AV Fistula

Use touch and sound to confirm the absence of blockages preventing blood flow.

Check this daily. You can strengthen the fistula through exercise 2 weeks after surgery.

Squeeze a rubber ball 2 to 3 times a day with the access arm.

Specific Care for the Dialysis Catheter

●  Do not expose the catheter to the air.

●  Keep the dressing clean and dry to prevent infection.

● Change dressing after each dialysis session.

● Only use the catheter for dialysis treatment.

●  Look out for redness or swelling around the area.

At-home treatment for kidney failure is an option for many patients. With proper training, they can take control of their own care in the comfort of home.

Learn More About Dialysis and Vascular Access Care

At South Valley Vascular, our passion is saving lives. With our amazing kidney specialist helping every step of the way, we see many success stories. Give us a call today at one of our five locations listed below to learn about our services.


● Visalia (559) 625-4118

● Hanford (559) 825-6204

● Porterville (559) 788-1022

● Tulare (559) 625-4118

● Fresno (559) 746-9605