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Renal Dialysis Access

What is renal dialysis access?

Hemodialysis is the process by which the blood of a person with renal failure is cleaned by a machine. ​Renal dialysis access is the process of creating channels through which the blood will flow to and from the person with renal failure to the dialysis machine. ​There are several types of renal dialysis access, but arteriovenous (AV) fistulas and arteriovenous (AV) grafts are those which are designed for long term use.

Arteriovenous (AV) Fistula

This fistula is made by connecting a person’s artery with their vein under the skin. This procedure is usually done on the arm after the doctor after numbs the area with local anesthesia.

AV fistulas have a lower risk of infection and of forming blood clots when compared to other forms of renal dialysis access. In addition, they also allow for greater blood flow, perform better and even last longer if they are taken care of well.

However, AV fistulas also have some drawbacks since they take several months to mature, and they cannot be used during this period.

Arteriovenous (AV) Graft

This graft also connects a person’s artery to their vein but in this case a tube made of man-made materials is used to join them. This synthetic connector is usually placed in the arm, but it can also be put in the thigh.

AV grafts mature in a relatively shorter time than AV fistulas since they can be used just two to six weeks after placement.

However, AV grafts often need to be replaced or repaired yearly. In addition, persons who have AV grafts are more prone to developing infections and blood clots than those with AV fistulas because of the synthetic tube. When this happens, the doctor who placed them has to remove the clots. They can also perform balloon angioplasty and stenting to keep them working properly.

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