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In hemodialysis, blood is filtered through a machine that acts as an artificial kidney, removing any impurities and regulating fluid and chemical levels. The dialysis access is usually in the arm or the leg, and lies just beneath the skin to allow an efficient and safe access point for dialysis.

There are three kinds of vascular access for dialysis: arteriovenous (AV) fistula, an AV graft, and a venous catheter. The AV fistula is best for long-term dialysis. It’s created by connecting an artery directly to a vein, usually in the forearm. The procedure can be done under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

To protect your access, you should:

  • Make sure your nurse or technician checks your access before each treatment.
  • Keep your access clean at all times.
  • Use your access site only for dialysis.
  • Be careful not to bump or cut your access.
  • Don’t let anyone put a blood pressure cuff on your access arm.
  • Don’t wear jewelry or tight clothes over your access site.
  • Don’t sleep with your access arm under your head or body.
  • Don’t lift heavy objects or put pressure on your access arm.
  • Check the pulse in your access every day.

For more information about dialysis access, visit Kidney and Urologic Diseases Clearinghouse

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