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    Your Dialysis Catheter

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    What is a Dialysis Catheter?

    • A dialysis catheter is a tube which a doctor places into a large blood vessel to access your bloodstream so your blood can be cleaned by the dialysis machine (artificial kidney).


    • There are 2 types of catheters: temporary and tunneled.
    Temporary catheter is placed in the neck. Tunneled catheter is placed in the upper chest area.

    • A doctor places a dialysis catheter at the hospital. The medical and nursing staff review the risks, benefits and possible complications of this procedure with you. This is a good time to ask or write down any questions you may have about the placement of a dialysis catheter.

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    What Can I Expect When I Go Home with a Dialysis Catheter?

    • Keep your dressing dry and clean at all times to prevent infection.


    • You may take a sponge bath. No showers, no hot tubs, no saunas and no swimming. Be aware that the plastic dressing that covers the insertion site of your catheter is not waterproof.


    • Avoid any activities that may cause the catheter to be tugged on, pulled out or moved from its placement.


    • DO NOT:

      • Remove the dressing covering the catheter.

      • Use scissors, pins, or razors anywhere near your catheter.

      • Take the caps off the catheter.

      • Wear tight clothing around the catheter site.
    • Look at your dressing. If you should notice that it is becoming loose, secure the dressing with medical tape. If your dressing becomes damp (from sweating) or wet, call Dialysis Services at California Pacific:

      • Pacific Campus: (415) 600-3258

      • Between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., call the Davies Campus at (415) 600-5075

    Call Your Doctor if You Experience Any of the Following Symptoms:

    • Bleeding, pain, swelling, redness, and drainage at the site of the catheter.


    • Chills (feeling very cold), fever (100°F or 38.3°C or above).


    • If your catheter starts to come out, tape the catheter with medical tape. Do not attempt to push the catheter back in, and do not pull the catheter out.


    • Damage to the catheter – for example: leaking, break or cut in the tubing.

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    What to Do If Your Catheter Should Accidentally Come Out

    • Lay down flat and put pressure with your hand directly over the site.


    • Call 911 and go to the nearest Emergency Room.


    • California Pacific Medical Center Emergency Departments:

      • Pacific Campus: 2333 Buchanan Street


      • Davies Campus: Castro at Duboce Streets

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    More Ways to Learn


    Produced by the Center for Patient and Community Education in association with the staff and physicians at California Pacific Medical Center.

    Illustrations by: Christine Gralapp


    Funded by: A generous donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Ciocca Foundation.

    Note: This information is not meant to replace any information or personal medical advice which you get directly from your doctor(s). If you have any questions about this information, such as the risks or benefits of the treatment listed, please ask your doctor(s).
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