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What is dialysis?

Dialysis is a procedure that helps filter your blood, ridding it of wastes and excess water. These functions are normally performed by the kidneys, but when the kidneys are damaged or diseased, they may not function the way they're supposed to. Dialysis is performed to take over the role of the kidneys. Dialysis uses needles – one in a vein and one in an arm – connected to a special machine that serves as the filter. Blood flows out of your artery and through the filtering device before being returned to your vein.

What is a vascular access?

A vascular access is a point where the dialysis lines enters the blood vessel. Because hemodialysis requires regular access to vessels, vascular access points must be established to make dialysis treatment easier and to prevent blood vessel collapse that can occur when vessels are repeatedly punctured.

What is an AV fistula?

An AV fistula is a type of vascular access technique that helps increase the size and strength of a blood vessel to provide easier and stronger access to the vessel. AV stands for arteriovenous, and it refers to a connection the doctor makes between an artery and a blood vessel that enables greater blood flow – and greater pressure – into a vein than would normally occur. These increases help promote stronger vessel development for more reliable and easier access to the vein and to prevent vessel collapse from occurring.

How is an AV fistula created?

The fistula is created during an outpatient procedure. Sometimes, ultrasound is performed to create a vein “map” that helps determine where the connection between an artery and vessel should be made. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area, and a small incision is made to enable the doctor to access the vessels and make the connection. Most fistulas take about two to three months to fully develop.