Lifeline for Survival: The Importance of Dialysis Access Care

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
November 8, 2023

Few procedures extend lifespan and improve the quality of life for so many patients quite as much as dialysis. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at dialysis access care and its importance to so many patients.

What is Dialysis?

Let’s start at the beginning: What is dialysis? When most people use the term dialysis, they’re referring specifically to kidney dialysis. In this procedure, blood is rerouted out of the body through a special dialysis machine that filters it for impurities. The purified blood is then recirculated into the body.

Regularly receiving dialysis is necessary for people suffering from kidney failure. When working normally, the kidneys filter unwanted toxins, waste products, and other excess fluids from the bloodstream. This keeps the blood clean, healthy, and chemically balanced.

Dialysis Treatment: What Are the Types?

There are two major types of dialysis treatment: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis uses a dialysis machine, which passes blood through a special filter called the dialyzer. After being cleaned by the dialyzer, the blood is circulated back into the body.

In peritoneal dialysis, this membrane is instead placed inside the patient’s body. It’s located in the patient’s peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen. In peritoneal dialysis, the blood never leaves the patient’s body as it’s purified.

For hemodialysis patients, dialysis access care is required to perform the life-saving procedure.

What is Dialysis Access Care?

Dialysis access care, as the name suggests, is a procedure that enables regular vascular access for dialysis care.

Dialysis access care is an essential procedure for patients suffering from kidney disease or otherwise requiring hemodialysis. This procedure, called hemodialysis or vascular access, allows the patient’s blood to flow into the machine.

Types of Kidney Dialysis Access

There are two major types of access for kidney dialysis: either an arteriovenous (AV) fistula or a venous catheter. 

In most circumstances, an AV fistula is recommended, but catheters are an option for those who can’t have the procedure.

The AV fistula is made by a vascular surgeon by connecting a vein to an artery using a special procedure. For ease of access, this is almost always done in the arm. This procedure enlarges the vein walls and creates a reliable vascular access point. Typically, a fistula takes about 3-6 months to mature before being used. Despite this, it remains the longest-lasting and least problematic form of dialysis access.

Before receiving a fistula, a vascular surgeon may map your vessels using ultrasound to select the best vessels for the procedure. After that, surgery is performed, often in an outpatient setting with local anesthetic and sedation.

Venous catheters are thin tubes inserted surgically, most commonly in the neck, chest, or groin. The external portion of the catheter has tubes that connect for dialysis. These tubes have a higher risk of infection, blot clots, and clogging of the tubing, which don’t exist with an AV fistula.

How to Care for Your Dialysis Access

Since dialysis will be performed regularly, it’s important that patients take care of their dialysis access at home. Luckily, this is simple and easy to do.

This care starts by keeping the skin around the vascular access clean. Watch for any signs of infection, swelling, or bulging over the access, and report any changes to your healthcare provider.

This access should only be used for its intended purpose of kidney dialysis. This includes having blood drawn, blood pressure taken, or any injections given in the arm without access.

Finally, to avoid damage to the access, you should not sleep on that arm. 

South Valley Vascular: Your Connection to the Dialysis Lifeline

Access to dialysis is a matter of survival for those struggling with kidney disease. For residents of the southern San Joaquin Valley who need that access, South Valley Vascular is an invaluable resource. 

If you’re a resident needing dialysis access or have more questions, our friendly experts are here to help. Call or schedule your appointment online to talk to one of South Valley’s vascular specialists.