What is a dialysis fistula?

A dialysis fistula may be created to allow for easier kidney dialysis treatment.

Kidney dialysis is a medical process in which toxins are removed from the blood when the kidneys are not working well enough to do so naturally. A dialysis fistula is a method of providing a common access point for this procedure. Through this method, an artery and a vein are connected together to facilitate needle insertion during dialysis. The forearm is often used to create the dialysis fistula.

Kidney dialysis removes toxins from the body when the kidneys aren’t working well enough to do so naturally.

Dialysis fistula is often called AV fistula. This stands for arteriovenous fistula, as it requires joining an artery to a vein. This is the preferred access type for dialysis because this method carries a low risk of blood clots or infection. Dialysis fistula is also known to last for several years, another advantage over other types of vascular access. The downside of this procedure is that the complete fistula usually needs several months to heal and mature before being used as a dialysis access point.

The surgical procedure used to create the dialysis fistula is usually done on an outpatient basis. Often, the patient is given only local anesthetic. This means that the patient remains awake during the surgery, avoiding possible negative side effects of general anesthesia.

By joining the artery to the vein, blood flow to the vein increases significantly. This causes the vein to grow and become stronger. Since dialysis treatments are often required several times a week and needle stick is a requirement for this type of treatment, a strong vein becomes very important for the patient. Without this procedure, a normal vein could easily collapse or be damaged by repeated needle sticks, especially considering the relatively large size of dialysis needles.

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Although dialysis fistula is the preferred method, it is not always a possibility. There are occasions when surgery is performed, but for one reason or another the fistula never matures enough to be a viable access option. There are other times when the kidneys suddenly fail and there is not enough time to wait for a dialysis fistula to mature, making other options more practical. Some patients choose not to have the fistula created due to the large bulge caused by the procedure, as they find it unattractive or may draw unwanted attention.

It is important that blood flow to the dialysis fistula is not restricted. For this reason, the patient should avoid wearing tight clothing in this area. Medical procedures, such as monitoring blood pressure or drawing blood, should be performed on the arm without access. Daily monitoring of the pulse on the access arm will also detect any potential blood flow problems.

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