Preparation for hemodialysis starts several weeks to months before your first procedure. To allow for easy access to your bloodstream, a surgeon will create a vascular access. The access provides a mechanism for a small amount of blood to be safely removed from your circulation and then returned to you in order for the hemodialysis process to work. The surgical access needs time to heal before you begin hemodialysis treatments.
There are three types of accesses:
- Arteriovenous (AV) fistula. A surgically created AV fistula is a connection between an artery and a vein, usually in the arm you use less often. This is the preferred type of access because of effectiveness and safety.
- AV graft. If your blood vessels are too small to form an AV fistula, the surgeon may instead create a path between an artery and a vein using a flexible, synthetic tube called a graft.
- Central venous catheter. If you need emergency hemodialysis, a plastic tube (catheter) may be inserted into a large vein in your neck or near your groin. The catheter is temporary.
It's extremely important to take care of your access site to reduce the possibility of infection and other complications. Follow your health care team's instructions about caring for your access site.