Protect Your Access – It’s Your Lifeline


Northwest Renal Network
Serving Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington
Toll-free patient line: 1.800.262.1514
Materials adapted from Southern California Renal Disease Council, Inc. (Network 18)

Page updated February 17, 2017       


  • It only takes a minute to save your lifeline.
    • A page of instructions for your patients on how to check their access and who to call when it's suspicious. Fill in the appropriate contact information and hand it out to your patients.


  • Check your access for a thrill every day.
    • The thrill is the sensation you feel when you touch your access – it could feel like a cat purring, a vibration or a very strong pulse. It should be checked over the scar line where the surgeon made the incision. If you do not feel one of these sensations, it could mean your access is clotted.


  • Keep your vascular access clean.
    • You should:
      • 1. Wash your access with soap and water before going to your dialysis seat
    • Your Nurse Technician should:
      • 1. Wash their hands
      • 2. Put on gloves
      • 3. Clean each area of your access for needle insertion


  • Learn how to take care of your access.
    • Avoid clothes with tight-fitting sleeves or elastic.
    • Avoid wearing a watch or other jewelry on your access arm.
    • Do not carry a pocketbook or a bag of groceries with your access arm.
    • Do not sleep on your access arm – it could clot during the night.
    • Be careful not to injure or cut your access arm.
    • Absolutely no blood pressures, IVs, or blood draws from your access arm.


  • What to look for when staff cannulates your access.
    • Grafts and Fistulas: Make sure your needles are placed at least 1 inch apart and that the needles are rotated (put in a
    • Fistulas using Buttonhole: Make sure the needles are inserted into the same holes at the same angle and depth each treatment. You can learn to do this procedure – it’s quick and painless!
    • Catheters: You and the staff should always wear a mask before opening your catheter to prevent infection. At home, keep your dressing clean and dry and do not pull on the catheter – these will help prevent infection.