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Caring for your new central venous catheter (CVC) for dialysis

​​​​​Caring for your new CVC is an important way to make sure your dialysis can start, or keep going, and for you to feel better. The area around your catheter may be sore for 1 to 2 days after your CVC is inserted. 

You'll have stitches in your neck and likely in your chest. The stitches in your neck will be taken out in about 2 weeks. The stitches in your chest will need to stay in for about 6 to 8 weeks. If any of your stitches fall out before they are taken out, call your dialysis unit right away. You will need new stitches. The stitches help to keep your CVC from moving further inside or coming out.

It's important to prevent infections. Be careful not to touch the skin around the CVC and always keep your CVC covered with dressing. 

During the first month after you've had the CVC put in, be careful when you move so that it doesn't pull or tug the skin around the exit site. When the area around your catheter has healed, you can move normally.

​General precautions

  • Do not shower (or get the CVC site wet) until your doctor or nurse says that it is safe for you to get it wet. This is to lower the chance of getting an infection around your CVC.
  • Do not put the catheter site or caps in water (for example, in a bathtub, hot tub, or pool).
  • Never use scissors, pins, or other sharp objects near the CVC or other tubing. These sharp objects create a higher risk of puncture or cuts in the CVC.
  • Keep your catheter clamped when it's not being used.
  • To prevent infection, wear a mask when your nurse changes your dressing or connects you to dialysis.
  • Always carry your clamps with you. Your care team will give you a set of clamps when your CVC is inserted. Keep them handy in case you need to clamp the CVC in an emergency due to damage to the CVC.

When to call your access nurse

Call the access nurse if:

  • your CVC moves and if there is bleeding - cover the spot with gauze and put pressure over the access site. (If the bleeding does not stop in 10 minutes call 911. Do not push the line back in.)
  • your CVC falls out and there is bleeding - apply pressure just above your collar bone where the line had entered the vein in your neck. (If the bleeding does not stop in 10 minutes, call 911.)
  • your CVC site becomes red, hurts, or is draining - you may have an infection that needs to be treated.
  • you have a temperature over 38°C (100.3°F) with or without chills.

Note: on weekends or after 4 pm, please proceed to the emergency department.

Access nurse phone numbers

Calgary: (403) 944-8474

Edmonton: (780) 407-8412

Lethbridge: (403) 388-6599

Medicine Hat: (403) 529-8807​​

Note: On weekends or after 4pm, please go to the nearest emergency department.​​

Current as of: November 23, 2022

Author: Kidney Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services