Getting your dialysis access

getting dialysis access?

For effective and safer treatment

Dialysis access is a way to connect your body to the dialysis machine to safely remove toxins and extra fluid.

Access for peritoneal dialysis (PD)

A minor surgery is scheduled to place a PD catheter into your abdomen. This soft plastic tube is about the length of a ruler and the width of a pencil. The drainage end of the catheter is put into your lower abdomen, underneath and to the side of your belly button. Most PD catheters are ready to use about 7-14 days following this procedure. 

Access Options for Hemodialysis

  • Vascular Access. A fistula or graft is the best access for hemodialysis because of lower infection risk. This type of access is usually placed on your nondominant arm. For example, if you’re right-handed, your access might be placed on your left arm. Here’s the difference between a fistula and a graft:
    • Fistula. The surgeon connects your own artery to your own vein to create a safe access to your bloodstream in your arm. For most people, this is the best choice for the safest access. It’s important to plan ahead, because a fistula may take several months to be ready to use for dialysis.
    • Graft. Artificial tubing is placed into your arm to connect your artery to your vein to create a safe access to your bloodstream. This is a good option if a fistula isn’t possible. A graft can usually be used for dialysis within a few weeks after this procedure.

Learn more about vascular access

  • Hemodialysis Catheter. A plastic tube is placed through a vein in your neck or chest and reaches to the top of your heart. This method is used if a fistula or graft isn’t possible, or as a temporary dialysis access while you’re waiting to have a fistula or graft placed. A catheter can be used right away, but the risk of infection rises the longer it stays in place, so it’s important to replace it with a fistula or graft if at all possible.

Know your hemodialysis access options

Watch this brief video that explains the difference between a fistula, graft, and catheter.

View video about hemodialysis access
best dialysis access
advantages of fistula

Learn about the advantages of a fistula or graft access

The benefits include lower risk of infection and needing hospitalization. Plus, more efficient dialysis may mean less treatment time and more energy!

Catheter go into the heart

Understand the truth about a catheter

People with catheters have a much higher risk of a serious bloodstream infection that may require time in the hospital.

afraid of needles

I was afraid of needles.

After learning about the advantages, Estelle chose to have a fistula for a lower risk of infection.

understanding the risks of a catheter

I wish I had done it sooner.

After missing his granddaughter’s birthday party, Mike reconsiders his decision to keep a catheter.

being a burden

I don’t want to be a burden.

Walter chooses a fistula to reduce the risk of complications so he isn’t a burden on his wife.

Additional resources

Getting your access placed at a vascular access center

Take a look at the services that a vascular access center offers.

Caring for your dialysis access

Check your access often and know what a healthy access looks like.

Asking for help as you begin dialysis

There are many ways to get the support you need to begin dialysis with confidence. Learn more about our support resources.