Caring for Your Vascular Access

A vascular access allows patients to get the treatment they need, and some may even refer to it as their “lifeline.” Because of this, it is important to take proper care of the access to protect your health and prevent infection.

Premier Surgical’s Vascular Access Coordinator, Meghan Mencer shares a few important tips to help patients properly care for their vascular access.

  • Exercise your arm before and after vascular access surgery

When diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, you should begin using light weight and doing exercises to strengthen the muscles of your arms. This can increase blood flow through the veins and allow them to become stronger. This can also increase your chance of being able to have a fistula created and the likelihood that it will mature and be usable when needed. If you have a fistula created, you will be given a small, rubber object (like a ball) to take home and “exercise” your fistula. You’ll allow your arm to hang by your side and squeeze the object with the hand of your access arm. It is best to do this a few times a day for at least five minutes at a time.

 

  • Keep your access clean

Once your arteriovenous (or AV) access is ready to be used for hemodialysis, it is important that you keep it clean. Be sure to wash and pat-dry your fistula arm thoroughly every day right before treatment. Keep an eye out for redness, warmth, or swelling around the access area. If you experience any pain around the fistula, or drainage that smells funny and isn’t clear, contact your doctor immediately.

 

  • Checking your fistula or graft blood flow

Check the blood flow through your AV fistula daily. This is done by touch and sound. When you place your fingers over your fistula, you should be able to feel the motion of blood flowing through it. This sensation is called a “thrill.” Let your doctor know if your thrill ever feels different, or unusual.

Your vascular access team and dialysis clinic staff will listen to the blood flow by using a stethoscope. The sound heard is called a “bruit” (pronounced broo-ee). Any change in the pitch may indicate a clot or narrowing of the fistula. Remember, it is important that you feel the “THRILL” of your access every single day!

 

  • Appointments after surgery

The most important thing you do will be to go to all of your post-operative and follow-up appointments! Regardless of fistula or graft, your surgeon will want to see you one week after your access is created to look, listen, and feel to be sure everything is going well. If you have any questions or concerns, patients are encouraged to write them down and take advantage of the face-to-face time for education.

 

As East Tennessee’s leader in vascular services, the Premier Vascular Access & Imaging Center in Knoxville is focused on providing exceptional care for patients and their families. We offer comprehensive on-site diagnostic expertise and educational services to patients who are at risk for kidney disease.

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