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Hemodialysis is a procedure that uses a machine to do the job of your kidneys. The machine pumps your blood through a dialyzer, or artificial kidney. The dialyzer filters fluid, salts, and waste from your blood. Once they are removed, clean blood from the dialyzer returns to your body through a vein. You may need hemodialysis short-term or for the rest of your life. You may need to make changes to your diet and take your medications at the same times. You will work with a team of specialists and may be able to do hemodialysis at home.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • You are breathing fast or have a fast heartbeat.
  • You feel confused, dizzy, or lightheaded.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • The skin around your fistula or graft is painful, hot, red, or swollen.
  • You cannot eat or drink because you are vomiting.
  • Your fingers are blue or pale, or they feel cool to the touch.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You do not feel a buzzing sensation in your fistula or graft.
  • You have chills, cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your skin itches or you have a rash.
  • You cannot make it to your follow-up or dialysis visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines and vitamins may help prevent anemia (low level of red blood cells).
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

AVF or AVG care:

  • You may remove the bandage over your fistula or graft 4 to 6 hours after dialysis.
  • Clean the skin over the fistula or graft each day with soap and water.
  • Check your fistula or graft each day for good blood flow by touching it with your fingertips. The buzzing sensation means that it is working.
  • Check for bleeding, pain, redness, or swelling. These may be signs of infection or a clogged fistula or graft.
  • Prevent damage to the fistula or graft. Do not let anyone take your blood pressure or draw blood from the arm that has the fistula or graft. Do not sleep on that arm. Do not wear tight clothes or jewelry.


Your healthcare provider will tell you what changes you need to make to the foods you eat. A dietitian can help you plan meals.

  • Eat foods as directed. You may need extra calories or protein. Limit potassium, phosphorus, and sodium (salt). You may find it hard to eat enough food. Talk to your healthcare provider or dietitian for help or more information about nutrition for dialysis.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Keep a record of how much liquid you drink each day. Count ice cubes, soup, gravy, gelatin, and popsicles. Limit caffeine.
  • Keep your mouth moist. Suck on hard candy or lemon wedges, or chew gum.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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