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Caring for Your Hemodialysis Access

A problem such as an infection or a blood clot may make the access unusable. Typically, this happens more often with an arteriovenous graft than with an arteriovenous fistula. If this happens, you’ll need a new access. To help your access last, you will need to follow certain guidelines.

Watching for problems

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you:

  • Can’t feel your thrill.

  • Have pain or numbness in your hand or arm.

  • Have bleeding, redness, bluish discoloration, or warmth around your access.

  • Notice your access suddenly bulging out more than usual (a slight bulge is normal).

  • Have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your doctor

Follow these and any other guidelines you’re given

  • Don’t wear tight clothes or jewelry around your access.

  • Don’t let anyone take your blood pressure on or draw blood from the arm with the access. Also, don’t let anyone put IV lines into it.

  • Protect your access from being hit or cut.

  • Wash your hands often and keep the area around the access clean.

  • Do not carry anything heavy or do anything that would put pressure on the access.

Feeling for your “thrill”

Palm view of hand and forearm. Another hand is feeling forearm with fingers.

If you put your fingers over your access, you should feel the blood rushing through it. This is called a thrill, and it feels like a vibration. Feel for the thrill as often as you're told, usually once or twice a day. If you can't feel it, tell your health care provider right away. Blood may not be flowing through your access the way it should.

Important numbers

Write the names and numbers of your health care providers below. That way you will know how to get in touch with them.


Name ___________________ Phone ___________________


Name ___________________ Phone ___________________

Dialysis Center:

Name ___________________ Phone ___________________


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