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Short-term Catheter for Hemodialysis: Care Instructions

Chest with catheter for hemodialysis and vascular access


To start hemodialysis (also called dialysis) right away, your doctor will insert a soft plastic tube into a vein. This tube will carry your blood to the dialysis machine. The tube is called a central venous catheter, or CV line. It will be your vascular access until your permanent access is ready to use.

If you have a kidney injury that can be healed, you may need dialysis only for a short time. But some people will need to have long-term dialysis. This includes people with chronic kidney disease.

If you need long-term dialysis, it can take weeks or months for a permanent vascular access to be ready to use. You can use the catheter until a permanent access site is ready.

The catheter site will be in a large vein, usually in your chest or neck. Or it may be in your groin. A few stitches will hold the catheter in place.

By learning how to care for your access, you will help avoid problems and get the best results from your dialysis treatments.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Make sure the catheter is secured to your body and and isn't pulling.
  • Avoid clothes that rub or pull on your catheter.
  • Never use scissors or other sharp objects around your catheter.
  • Don't bend or crimp your catheter.
  • Ask your doctor or dialysis nurse when you can take a bath or shower. You may be able to do these things after the site heals or if you cover the site with a waterproof bandage.
  • You can stay active while the catheter is in. But talk to your doctor about the kind of activities you want to do.
  • Review emergency instructions with your dialysis team so you know what to do if your catheter comes out.
  • Keep your bandage and exit site dry and clean. Change a dirty or bloody bandage. Check the site every day for signs of infection.
  • Always wash your hands before you touch your catheter.
  • Keep the end of the catheter covered when it's not in use.
  • Wear a mask during your dialysis treatments. It can keep you from breathing germs onto your catheter.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • The catheter comes out of your body.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the area.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You have liquid leaking from around the catheter.
  • There are cracks or leaks in the tube.
  • You have pain or swelling in your neck or arm.
  • The line becomes clogged.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.