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Hemodialysis Requires Vascular Access

Healthy kidneys filter toxins and excess water from the blood. They also perform a number of other functions, such as helping to control blood pressure, producing red blood cells and regulating calcium absorption. When the kidneys are no longer able to perform these functions, patients must undergo some type of dialysis.

Hemodialysis is a common type of dialysis. It uses a special access port in the patient’s vein to remove blood from the body, filter it through an artificial kidney and return it to the body.

There are three basic types of vascular access ports for hemodialysis:

  • Arteriovenous (AV) Fistula – Although it may take a while to develop properly, the AV fistula is considered the best structure for vascular access. It provides good blood flow, lasts for a long time and has a lower incidence of complications as compared to other types of vascular access. In order to create an AV fistula, a surgeon connects an artery to a vein, typically in the forearm. The additional blood flowing into the vein makes it grow larger over time and capable of withstanding repeated needle insertions for hemodialysis.
  • Arteriovenous (AV) Graft – Surgeons often opt for an AV graft when a hemodialysis patient has small veins that will not develop into an AV fistula. To create the AV graft, the surgeon connects an artery to a vein using a synthetic tube, or graft. The graft acts as an artificial vein used for repeated needle insertions during hemodialysis. The graft can generally be used more quickly than an AV fistula can, but is more prone to infection and clotting.
  • Venous Catheter – A venous catheter is used for temporary vascular access when the patient needs to start hemodialysis treatment before an AV fistula or AV graft can be completed. The catheter is a tube inserted into a vein in the neck, chest, or leg (near the groin). It is comprised of two chambers to allow for two-way flow of blood. The venous catheter is not ideal for long-term access. It can easily clog, become infected or cause narrowing of the vein in which it is placed.

Hemodialysis is a complex process requiring an access port in the patient’s vein. Blood flows out of the access port through a tube and into the artificial kidney. It is filtered using a washing solution called a dialysate. Recently, Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMC) recalled two of their dialysate component products—GranuFlo and NaturaLyte—because of misleading product labeling that could lead to fatal dosage problems.

Did you or a loved one have a hemodialysis treatment using one of these products between January 1, 2008, and June 30, 2012? If you suffered a serious cardiac event during dialysis or shortly afterwards, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact a GranuFlo kidney dialysis attorney at Schmidt Kramer at (717) 888-8888 to learn more.