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Caring for Your Hemodialysis Access

It's important to care for your access to help it last. A problem such as an infection or a blood clot may make your access unusable. This may happen more often with an arteriovenous graft than with an arteriovenous fistula. If this occurs, you may need a new access. Follow these guidelines to help protect your access.

Watching for problems

Call your healthcare provider right away if you:

  • Can’t feel the blood flowing in the access (this sensation is called a 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 healthcare provider

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

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 healthcare provider right away. Blood may not be flowing through your access the way it should.

Fingers resting on forearm to feel thrill in hemodialysis access.

Important numbers

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


Name ___________________ Phone ___________________


Name ___________________ Phone ___________________

Dialysis Center:

Name ___________________ Phone ___________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Walead Latif MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2020
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.