Arteriovenous -- or AV -- fistulas are commonly used as an access point for individuals undergoing dialysis for kidney failure. An AV fistula is a direct connection to a vein in your body. As a fistula matures, the access point becomes stronger and stronger. It can be used for years. One of the downfalls of an AV fistula is the risk of blood clots. Fortunately, a blood clot in an AV fistula can be repaired.
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Keep a close eye on your AV fistula. A small amount of blood on a bandage in the weeks following the creation of your fistula is normal. However, pus and redness are signs of infection. You also need to pay attention for signs of scarred tissue or a lack of blood flow to the area of your AV fistula.
Contact your doctor's office if you notice anything out of the ordinary. If clotting occurs, you will likely be unable to attend your dialysis appointment until your fistula is cleared.
Visit with an interventional radiologist. This appointment will likely be made by your physician's office. The interventional radiologist will review your condition and determine a treatment plan.
Undergo angiography. This is a procedure that allows an interventional radiologist to view an X-ray of your artery. This X-ray can allow your dialysis team to determine abnormalities in your arteries including blockages, blood clots and aneurysms.
Have an angioplasty or thrombolysis procedure. Angioplasty is a procedure in which doctor's guide a small wire through your fistula -- with the help of an X-ray machine -- in order to open up your vein. Thrombolysis involves injecting your vein with a medication to help the clot dissolve. Both procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis.
Tips and warnings
- In order to help your AV fistula mature, squeeze a stress ball or a small rubber ball for a few minutes at a time, multiple times per day.
- Any restriction of blood flow to the area of your AV fistula -- typically your arm -- can cause clotting. To avoid clotting, to do not wear tight clothing or jewellery. You should also avoiding carrying heavy bags or purses on your arm. If you should have blood drawn or your blood pressure taken, have it taken on the opposite arm.
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