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Dialysis Access


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If you have renal vascular disease or another condition that has caused your kidneys to fail, you will need to undergo dialysis while you are waiting on a kidney transplant. The dialysis access is the point in your body where the dialysis process can access your blood vessels and blood.

In hemodialysis, a machine cleans and filters your blood to perform the normal function of your kidneys. Your vascular surgeon may recommend one of the following dialysis access types for hemodialysis:

  • Tunneled catheter. This is a temporary access point in your neck.
  • Arteriovenous (AV) fistula. This involves sewing together one of your veins and one of your arteries.
  • Arteriovenous (AV) graft. This involves placing a tube between one of your veins and one of your arteries.

Another type of dialysis – called peritoneal dialysis – uses the lining of your abdomen (peritoneum) to perform the normal work of your kidneys and filter your blood.


The kidneys are vital organs in the body that clean and filter your blood. While your body can function fairly well with the use of only one kidney, you cannot survive if both your kidneys fail. In this case, you will need to undergo dialysis until you receive a kidney transplant.

What to Expect

Tunneled Catheter
In this procedure to prepare for hemodialysis, your vascular surgeon places a long, thin tube (catheter) in your neck. This is where the dialysis access point will be, and it should be available for dialysis soon after the tunneled catheter placement. Because the risk of infection is high, a tunneled catheter is only used on a temporary basis.

AV Fistula
In this procedure to prepare for hemodialysis, your vascular surgeon removes a piece of a vein from your arm or leg and sews it into a nearby artery. In doing so, the vein becomes larger and thicker, like an artery, and can serve as the dialysis access point. An AV fistula is typically considered to be the best option for dialysis access due to its low risk of infection. An AV fistula needs to heal for two or three months before you can undergo hemodialysis.

AV Graft
If your vascular surgeon thinks your veins are too small to undergo an AV fistula successfully, an AV graft may be the next option to prepare for hemodialysis. This procedure involves your vascular surgeon sewing a prosthetic graft (tube) between an artery and a vein in your arm or leg. An AV graft needs to heal for at least four weeks before you can undergo hemodialysis.

Peritoneal Dialysis Access
If you need to undergo peritoneal dialysis, your vascular surgeon places a small tube (cannula) in your abdomen, which provides access for the lining of your abdomen (peritoneum) to perform the work of your kidneys and filter your blood. This type of dialysis can be conveniently done at home, but there is a higher risk of infection than in hemodialysis.

Vascular Access
You may need a vascular access point if you are receiving long-term care like chemotherapy, dialysis or IV nutrition. Before your vascular access procedure, you will get a few blood tests to ensure your kidneys work well and your blood clots normally. Depending on the location of your vascular access, your surgeon may perform the procedure right in your hospital room (such as for arm access) or you may need to go to the catheterization lab so you doctor can use X-ray imaging.

Why Choose UHealth?

Leading-edge imaging care in South Florida. Our doctors are also researchers discovering new ways to improve diagnosis and treatment. That means you can get some of today’s most promising advancements through clinical trials. You benefit from the latest developments that are fast-tracked from the lab to the bedside.

Advanced, hard-to-find procedures. Our doctors are committed to caring for every patient. That’s why they offer the latest treatments, including limb salvage, endovascular grafting and thoracic outlet decompression, to improve your blood flow. 

All the care you need, from one physician. Our vascular surgeons perform a wide range of procedures so you can have the same physician for any vascular care you need as your condition changes. Whether you need a stent replaced or a vein grafted, you can always turn to the doctor you trust.

Experienced doctors, reliable results. UHealth vascular surgeons perform hundreds of stent placements, angiograms and more every year. You can rely on their experience to help you avoid complications and have a positive outcome.

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