Definitions and Explanations for Patients


Your first choice may be which type of treatment you want for your kidney failure. If you want a transplant and must wait, you’ll need dialysis. Your treatment choice will affect your lifestyle, so think about how you want your life to work. Hemodialysis (HD) cleans your blood with a filter (dialyzer). You can train to do HD at home for 2 hours each day or all night while you sleep so your days are free, and visit the clinic once a month. Or, you can drive to a clinic for HD treatments at a fixed time three days or nights each week (Mon., Weds., Fri. or Tues., Thurs, Sat). Peritoneal dialysis (PD), uses the inside lining of your belly as a filter. To do PD, a soft, plastic tube (catheter) is placed through the wall of your belly or chest. You use the tube to fill your belly with a special sterile cleansing fluid. Then you drain out the used fluid and fill up with fresh, either four times a day or all night while you sleep. You can go about your day while you do PD, and visit the clinic once a month.

AV Fistula

An arteriovenous (AV) fistula is blood vessel that is formed by linking an artery and a vein under your skin in your arm (or leg). Arteries are large and strong, with fast blood flow. Veins are close to your skin and easy to reach with dialysis needles. Linking them together makes a large vessel that can be used for dialysis.


A graft is a piece of artificial vessel that is used for a vascular access. A graft is used to connect your own artery and vein under your skin. Grafts are foreign to your body, so they are more likely to get infected than fistulas.


A catheter is a tube. For hemodialysis, a central venous catheter is a tube that is placed into a central vein in the neck or chest. Catheters enter your body from outside. And, they are foreign to your body. For these reasons, they are the most likely access to get infected.