For long-term hemodialysis, an Arteriovenous Fistula is a surgically created high flow circuit formed by connecting an artery to a vein. This is most commonly performed in the arm, but they may be created elsewhere as needed (e.g., leg or groin). This connection forces high velocity blood flow directly from the artery into the vein, which ultimately returns blood to the heart. The fistula is located close to the skin where it is easily accessible for dialysis. An Arteriovenous Graft is a synthetic tube-shaped material that is used to connect an artery with a vein when the vein is absent or too small to create a functioning fistula. The graft is similarly brought close to the skin so that it is easily accessible for dialysis.
Regardless of whether a fistula or graft is present, these circuits may develop narrowings or blockages, which can lead to compromised function or overt failure (blockage). Accordingly, to maintain their patency and function they require maintenance. Fortunately, treatment typically does not require surgery and can be performed in an outpatient, minimally-invasive fashion.
Your dialysis treatments will be optimized when your access is functioning properly. To this end, your nephrologist will advise taking preventative measures, including knowing the signs and symptoms of a dysfunctional access. Over time, you will become familiar with the normal feel and sounds of your access site. Changes in the vibration or pulsation of the access or unusual pitch changes, whistles, or coughing sounds may indicate a problem. At New England Endovascular Center, we provide minimally invasive treatments to correct access problems.
Call our office today to schedule a consultation at 413-693-2852.