Hemodialysis is a way to remove wastes from the blood when your kidneys can no longer do the job. It is not a cure, but it can help you live longer and feel better. It is a lifesaving treatment when you have kidney failure. Hemodialysis is often called dialysis. Your doctor created a place (called an access) in your arm for your blood to flow in and out of your body during your dialysis sessions.
Your arm will probably be bruised and swollen. It may hurt. The cut (incision) may bleed. The pain and bleeding will get better over several days. You will probably need only over-the-counter pain medicine. You can reduce swelling by propping your arm on 1 or 2 pillows and keeping your elbow straight.
You will have stitches. These may dissolve on their own, or your doctor will tell you when to come in to have them removed. You should also be able to return to work in a few days.
You may feel some coolness or numbness in your hand. These feelings usually go away in a few weeks. Your doctor may suggest squeezing a soft object. This will strengthen your access and may make hemodialysis faster and easier.
You should always be able to feel blood rushing through the fistula or graft. It feels like a slight vibration when you put your fingers on the skin over the fistula or graft. This feeling is called a thrill or pulse.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
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 call line 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.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.
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Current as of: March 15, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
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