For patients with advanced kidney failure, hemodialysis treatments are necessary to keep their blood clean and healthy. However, not all dialysis patients have the same needs when it comes to access or the material used in the tubing connecting the dialysis machine to their blood vessels. For some patients, such as those with a fistula in place, maintaining optimal flow through the fistula is an important way of avoiding complications and keeping their treatment as convenient and painless as possible.
1) Always keep your fistula clean
We know you’re busy with work, family, and other responsibilities. But try your best to keep your fistula clean on a daily basis. This will help minimize any problems or infections you may experience down the road. If there’s dirt or debris that gets caught in your fistula, it could affect blood flow and increase your chances of infection.
2) Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Make sure you’re getting plenty of fluids. Patients with fistulas can become dehydrated quickly, and your doctor will want to make sure your body is well-hydrated before hemodialysis sessions.
3) Use your arm regularly
If your fistula is connected to your arm, you may experience arm fatigue and pain if you use your fistula for activities that aren’t related to dialysis. To ensure the long-term health of your arm, avoid activities like carrying heavy bags on one shoulder or participating in high-impact sports like boxing or football. These activities can cause muscle fatigue and injury, putting unnecessary stress on your fistula
4) Check your fistula pressure (dipstick test) daily
This is a simple test that can help you gauge your fistula’s performance. Dipstick tests require no special tools and only take a few minutes to do. You will need a pressure reading at least once or twice each week if you are using an automated home dialysis machine and at least once per day if you are on regular hemodialysis. The dipstick test consists of dipping a dipstick into your fistula for three seconds and then reading it.
5) Stay positive!
The high volume of flow that dialysis fistulas are capable of can be quite exciting for new dialysis patients. However, as with any surgery, there’s a chance that you’ll encounter complications down the road. Since fistulas take time to develop, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions regarding optimal flow management and maintain a positive mindset. Focus on staying healthy and active while you wait for your fistula to fully develop—and never give up!