What is a dialysis catheter?

A dialysis catheter is used for patients whose kidneys have failed. When kidneys fail, the body loses its ability to keep the blood clean. The function of the kidneys can be replaced by dialysis, in which the blood is removed from the body, filtered to remove impurities, then returned to the body. This procedure can maintain healthy blood, but it causes wear and tear on the veins that are frequently pierced to remove and return the blood. A dialysis catheter can be placed directly into the large vein at the base of the neck (jugular vein), allowing the blood to be filtered without weakening the veins. Traditionally, these catheters have been implanted surgically, but our doctors use a minimally invasive procedure to place the catheter, reducing complications and risks. The catheter is a hollow, soft tube that has two openings one to send your blood to the dialysis machine and the other to return the cleansed blood back to your body.

What can I expect during this procedure?

You will be given medicine to help you to relax. The doctor will inject a local anesthetic into your skin to numb the area. The dialysis catheter is inserted into a blood vessel called a vein that directs blood back to your heart. Most often, a vein in the neck or chest is chosen. One end of the catheter will be inserted through your skin into the vein. The rest of the catheter will be formed into a curve and placed under your skin in what is called the tunnel. Where the catheter comes out of your skin is called the exit site. Under your skin near the exit site, you may feel a small bump on the catheter in the tunnel. This is called the catheter cuff, which helps to hold your catheter in place.

What can I expect after the procedure?

You may feel a bit sore and bruised for a few days after the procedure. A mild over the counter pain medication will help, but do not use aspirin. Immediately after the catheter has been put in, and for a few days afterwards, check for any redness, swelling, bleeding, bruising, pain or heat around the incisions. An ice pack for a few days after the procedure will reduce swelling and help to minimize pain. A follow appointment will be scheduled 1 week after the procedure to check your dialysis catheter.

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