Treating kidney failure
Creating you access
Your kidneys remove waste from your blood. When they fail they can no longer do this important work. That’s when hemodialysis takes over the process of keeping your blood clean. However, prior to this treatment an access (way to get to the blood) is needed.
Creating the access
There are essentially two access procedures. A fistula or a graft.
- A fistula is made by connecting an artery to a nearby vein. Blood flows into the vein, enlarging it. It may need weeks or months to develop before it ready.
- A graft may be sewn between an artery and a vein if a fistula in not available. Blood flows through the graft from the artery to the vein. A graft is usually ready to use in a few weeks.
Caring for your access
An infection may make the access unusable. If this happens, you’ll need a new access. To help you access last, follow these simple guidelines and any other you’re given.
- Don’t wear tight clothing or jewelry near and around your access.
- Don’t let anyone take your blood pressure on or draw blood from the arm with the access.
- Protect your access from being hit or cut
- Wash your hands often and keep the area around your access clean.
Feeling the “thrill”
If you put your fingers over your access, you should feel the blood rushing through it. This is called a trill. Feel your thrill as often as you are told, usually once or twice a day.
If you can’t feel it, tell your healthcare provider right away. Blood may not be flowing through your access the way it should.
Other problems you should alert your doctor can include:
- Have pain or numbness in your hand or arm
- Have bleeding, redness or warmth around your access
- You access is suddenly bulging out more than usual
- Have a fever over 101ºF
Hemodialysis usually takes 3 to 5 hours. It is usually done three times a week in a hospital or hemodialysis center.