5 Easy Ways to Prevent and Identify an Access Infection

Your dialysis access site is your lifeline—so keeping it healthy is important. Priority one is knowing how to care for your hemodialysis access or care for your peritoneal dialysis access and following the exact care instructions provided by your nurse. Learning to identify an infection and knowing when to alert your care team can also help you manage your health.

IF YOU’RE ON HEMODIALYSIS

  1. Protect your access site
    Reduce stress and injury by avoiding undue pressure on your access arm. Try not to carry heavy objects with your access arm and make sure your blood pressure is never taken on your access arm. 
  2. Practice good hygiene
    Always wash your hands before touching your access site—and make sure others do too. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer or antibacterial soap and water, follow proper handwashing techniques, as instructed by your nurse. 
  3. Inspect for infection
    Look at the area around your access site for signs of redness, swelling or leaking. 
  4. Listen to your lifeline
    You can actually hear whether your blood flow is strong or not. If you need help learning this skill, ask your nurse or patient care technician (PCT) how to listen for it. 
  5. Feel the flow
    Feel along your access site for good blood flow. Check for tenderness, warmth or ballooning at the site. These could be signs of infection or clotting. Tell your nurse immediately if you see anything suspicious.

IF YOU’RE ON PERITONEAL DIALYSIS

  1. Keep your PD catheter and exit site clean and dry
    Once your access has healed, shower daily, if possible. Avoid swimming or using hot tubs unless approved by your doctor.
  2. Perform daily exit site care
    Follow the instructions provided by your care team. Use proper hand hygiene and a new face mask each time you care for your access. When removing old dressings and tape, use your hand instead of scissors, razors or sharp objects that can damage your PD catheter.
  3. Secure your PD catheter to your body
    Keep your catheter from pulling or catching on your clothes by wearing clean, loose-fitting clothing. This helps prevent stress on your catheter site and helps keep the area clean.
  4. Keep the end of your PD catheter capped and clamped for safety
    This helps prevent bacteria from entering your catheter and causing infection.
  5. Inspect for infection
    Check your tunnel and exit site daily for any redness, drainage, tenderness or swelling. Make sure the catheter cuff isn’t showing or coming out.

SUSPECT AN INFECTION?

The earlier an infection gets treated, the better. Even if you’re not sure of infection, let your nurse know if you notice something is off or feel you may have infected yourself during treatment. She or he will advise you on what to do next.

HANDWASHING HELPS PREVENT INFECTION

Keeping your hands clean can help you stay healthy and avoid infection. Our printable instructions for handwashing are a good reminder of the proper technique taught by your nurse.
DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS

Suggested topics


Comparing Hemodialysis Access Types

There are 3 types of access for hemodialysis (HD)—AV (arteriovenous) fistula, graft and HD catheter. To choose the best access...

READ MORE

Managing Stress and Kidney Disease

Dealing with any chronic health condition can be stressful. It’s understandable—and completely normal—to have ups and downs...

Read more

Considering Home Dialysis Cost vs In-Center

Choosing to treat stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the comfort of your own home can be more effective, give you more...

READ MORE