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Dialysis Access Center at UPMC

Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for people with end-stage kidney disease who can't filter waste from their blood.

UPMC is a leading health system in the U.S. and the only one that offers a dedicated Dialysis Access Center. We specialize in creating access points so your blood can flow in and out of your body during dialysis treatment.

What Is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a treatment for people with end-stage kidney disease.

If your kidneys can't filter waste from your blood, fluid and toxins can build up in your body. This can lead to serious health problems and, after enough time, death.

Dialysis is a process that uses a machine to take over for your kidneys. Your blood travels through the dialysis machine to control blood pressure and remove waste, salt, and excess water.

What Is Dialysis Access?

Dialysis access provides a direct pathway to your bloodstream.

You'll have minor surgery to create the access point in your body. This lets your blood flow through soft tubes and a filter to the dialysis machine for cleaning.

Types of Dialysis Access

At the UPMC Dialysis Access Center, we're experts in access techniques.

After looking at your health history and treatment plan, your surgeon will suggest which type is right for you:

  • Hemodialysis.
  • Peritoneal dialysis.

What Is Hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is the most common form of dialysis in the U.S.

It pumps blood out of your body, filters it through a machine, and returns it to your body.

Types of dialysis access techniques include:

What Is Peritoneal Dialysis (PD)?

PD clean the blood while resting at night. It occurs through a small tube in the stomach lining for fluid exchange.

What's the Difference Between Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis?

With hemodialysis, you must go to a dialysis center for treatment.

You can do PD treatments at home or any clean setting.

After training at a dialysis center, you'll do your PD treatments at home on your own schedule. You can often do PD at night, while you sleep.

Before Your Dialysis Access Procedure

Before your surgery, you'll have a thorough physical exam.

You'll also talk with your surgeon about what's best for you: fistula, graft, or catheter placement.

What to Expect During Dialysis Access

After Your Dialysis Access Procedure

No matter which type of dialysis access your surgeon does, it's vital to keep the access point healthy and clean. This will help you avoid problems, such as missed dialysis treatments and hospital stays.

Even if you keep the access point clean, you can get clots or an infection. If this happens, your surgeon needs to reopen the site right away.

Before you leave, your surgeon will tell you:

  • How to care for your fistula, graft, or catheter site.
  • When you can return to your normal routine.

If you have an AV fistula or graft, your vein will slowly get larger.

You should feel a vibration when you place your hand over the access point.

Your arm or leg may also feel cool at times because the placement redirected some of your blood supply.

You should start dialysis treatment using a:

  • Fistula, no sooner than 10 to 12 weeks.
  • Graft, no sooner than 2 to 3 weeks.

People on dialysis may need to take nutritional supplements to replace those they lack from having to avoid high-potassium foods.

Peritoneal dialysis removes protein. So, you may need to eat higher amounts of protein.

You may also need fluid restrictions. Because the kidneys can't filter fluids, they're prone to building up excess fluid in the body. Your doctor may advise you to limit fluids to a certain amount each day.

Why Choose UPMC for Dialysis Access?

Our team

The staff at our dedicated Dialysis Access Center can:

  • Work with your kidney doctor, the operating room, and the dialysis center to schedule your procedure and avoid treatment delays.
  • Design the best plan of care and reduce the risk of potential problems since we have your dialysis access history.

Our dialysis access services

We offer a full range of services, such as:

  • Vein mapping and venous duplex.
  • Dialysis access placement, revision, and replacement.
  • X-rays to look at the blood flow and check for blood clots or other blockages in your fistula.
  • Surgery to remove a blood clot from a blood vessel (thrombectomies).
  • Catheter placement and exchange.
  • Dialysis access education.

Our Dialysis Access Center Locations

How to make a dialysis appointment

To contact our Pittsburgh and southwest Pa.offices:

To contact our Harrisburg offices, please call 717-920-4330.

We have two UPMC Dialysis Access Centers in Harrisburg.

Brady Building

205 South Front St., 8th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17104

Phone: 717-920-4330

UPMC Outpatient Center

4310 Londonderry Rd., Suite 1A
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Phone: 717-920-4330