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How do I care for my hemodialysis access?

It is important to take care of your access to prevent complications. Complications can occur even if you are careful, but are much less common if you take a few precautions:

  • Wash the access with soap and warm water each day and always before dialysis. Do not scratch the area or try to remove scabs.
  • Check the area daily for signs of infection, including warmth and redness.
  • Check that there is blood flow in the access daily. There should be a vibration (called a thrill) over the access. If this is absent or changes, notify your healthcare provider. Sometimes, flow monitoring is done during the dialysis treatment using ultrasound (sound waves). The flow monitoring measures the speed of blood flow during dialysis treatment.
  • Take care to avoid traumatizing the arm where the access is located; do not wear tight clothes or jewelry, carry heavy items, or sleep on the arm. Do not allow anyone to take blood or measure blood pressure on this arm.
  • Rotate needle sites on the access. Use gentle pressure to stop bleeding when the needle is removed. If bleeding occurs later, apply gentle pressure; call a healthcare provider if bleeding does not stop within 30 minutes, or if bleeding is excessive.