Living with Dialysis Access: Central Venous Catheter

istock 1138692488 Dialysis access is an essential part of managing good health. The care that is given to the dialysis access port is relevant to infection risk. It may take some time for a patient to adjust to life with dialysis access but, soon, the necessary daily care routine becomes familiar. There are four primary types of dialysis access: central venous catheter (CVC), arteriovenous fistula (AV fistula), arteriovenous graft (AV graft), and peritoneal dialysis catheter (PD catheter). Each has a unique set of care instructions. Here, we will discuss how to care for a central venous catheter to sustain optimal function. 

Caring for a Central Venous Catheter

A central venous catheter, or CVC, is the common form of dialysis access for urgent-need patients. This port is a long, flexible tube shaped like a Y. It is inserted through the skin into a central vein in the neck, chest, or, in some cases, the groin. Care instructions often provided for this type of access include:

  • If dialysis is performed at home, it is necessary to wash hands well before handling the CVC. When dialysis is performed at a dialysis facility, the staff are held to clinical standards of sterilization. 
  • Sharp objects like scissors should not be used near the CVC.
  • The CVC should be kept covered and secured to the body to prevent tugging or pulling. 
  • If dialysis is performed at home, the CVC should be flushed once a week using a saline solution of water, salt, and heparin. This process is usually demonstrated by the dialysis care team. When dialysis is performed in a facility, the staff flushes the CVC at regular intervals. 
  • The dressing over the CVC should be changed weekly. When changing the dressing, it is necessary to wear a mask and gloves.
  • The dressing over the CVC should be kept clean and dry.
  • Patients should observe the area around the CVC daily for signs of infection, such as redness, pain, warmth, swelling, or discharge. This is necessary regardless of where dialysis is performed.
  • The clamps on the catheter tubes should be closed at all times other than during dialysis treatment. 

From surgical creation of dialysis access to minimally invasive procedures that help maintain healthy access, our staff help navigate you through your dialysis journey. To schedule a visit at our Woodbridge or Fredericksburg office, call 703-763-5224.

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