Fistula

Also called: AV fistula, arteriovenous fistula

A fistula is created by directly connecting a person’s artery and vein—usually in the arm. This procedure may be performed as an outpatient operation using a local anesthetic. As blood flows to the vein from the newly connected artery, the vein grows bigger and stronger. The patient is taught to do exercises—such as squeezing a rubber ball—to help the fistula strengthen and mature to get it ready for use. This takes anywhere from six weeks to four months or more. Once the fistula has matured, it can provide good blood flow for many years of hemodialysis.

Kidney and hemodialysis experts, including the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKD) and others consider the fistula the "gold standard" access choice. Research studies have proven patients with a fistula have the fewest complications, such as infection or clotting, compared to all other access choices.

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