Resources Dialysis Access

Dialysis Accesses

A dialysis access (also known as a hemodialysis access or vascular access) is a site on the body to reach the blood. An access must be created in order to perform hemodialysis treatment for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) (kidney failure).

Types of Accesses

There are three types of accesses:

  1. An arteriovenous (AV) fistula is created by connecting an artery and vein, usually in the arm. Fistulas have lower rates of infection and clot formation than other types of dialysis accesses, but not every patient is a good candidate for a fistula.
  2. An arteriovenous (AV) graft is created by using a piece of catheter (a soft, flexible tube) to connect an artery and vein, usually in the arm.
  3. A catheter is a soft, flexible tube placed in a large vein somewhere on the body. There are different types of catheters. Some are temporary, and some are permanent.

Signs of Complications

Your body may not be used to the changes caused by your access. As a result, complications may arise and require medical attention. Specifically, your access may clot or become infected.

If you notice it clotting, notify your dialysis care providers immediately. Time is of the essence.

If you notice a temperature, pus, or redness, report them to your providers. These are signs of infection.

Ask your physician for more specific information on signs of complications for your specific access. We offer this downloadable brochure for some general information about complications for arteriovenous fistulas.

Tips for Caring for a Fistula or Graft

It is important to take good care of the access in order to prevent complications.

The tips below are offered for general informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Ask your physician for full instructions for care.

  1. Keep your dialysis access clean at all times.
  2. Needle insertion sites need to be rotated to avoid destruction of the wall of the fistula or graft.
  3. Make sure you feel the “thrill” of your access everyday
  4. Call your dialysis unit immediately if you lose the “thrill” in your access.
  5. Do not carry heavy grocery or other bags with your arm that has the dialysis access.
  6. Do not wear tight dressings, clothing or jewelry on your arm with the dialysis access.
  7. Do not allow medical personnel to take blood pressure or draw blood from the arm with the access.
  8. Avoid sleeping on your access; this could cause it to clot.
  9. Avoid exposure of your access to sharp equipment.

Download this list in a PDF document.



Any information and advice on this site is given on a generalized, generic basis, and is not specific to any individual patient’s condition. You should always consult with a professional for diagnosis and treatment of your specific health problems. You should not disregard any advice or treatment from such professionals based on your interpretation of what you may read on this site.