Dialysis Access Patients: 10 Common Terms You Should Know

Dialysis is a necessary treatment for patients with kidney failure. It completes the functions healthy kidneys usually perform, including removing waste and regulating the levels of certain chemicals in the blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “15% of US adults—37 million people—are estimated to have chronic kidney disease.” Of those, as many as 9 in 10 adults don’t know they have it.

The physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland provide a full spectrum of dialysis access care and want to ensure patients are as informed as possible. Keep reading for common terms dialysis patients should know.


An angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat fistulas with decreased blood flow. To begin, the physician threads a catheter to the area of interest. Once in position, they use the catheter to place an inflatable balloon in the blocked area of the artery. The physician inflates the balloon, expanding the artery and compacting the blockage, improving the blood flow in the patient’s fistula.


A bruit, or vascular murmur, is a swooshing noise and is a good indication that a patient’s fistula is working like it should.

Dialysis Access

Dialysis access is a general term that refers to access points needed for different types of dialysis, such as a fistula or peritoneal dialysis catheter.


A fistula is a type of dialysis access and is considered one of the best options due to its low risk of infection. The National Kidney Foundation recommends fistulas as the preferred choice for permanent vascular access. A fistula is created by joining an artery and vein, usually in the patient’s non-dominant forearm, to make a bigger blood vessel that can support a higher level of blood flow. A higher level of blood flow is needed for effective dialysis treatment and can help to decrease treatment time.


Fistulograms can help to identify problems caused by repeated dialysis treatments such as scarring or narrowing of the vein in a patient’s fistula. To perform a fistulogram, the physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland insert a catheter into the fistula and use x-ray imaging to guide it through the vein. Once the catheter is in position, they inject a contrast material to help uncover potential blockages or damage and take x-ray images.

Peritoneal Dialysis Catheter

A peritoneal dialysis catheter is a type of dialysis access. The catheter is placed in the patient’s abdomen and allows the lining of the abdomen to filter blood. Unlike other types of dialysis, this access allows the patient to complete dialysis treatments at home.


Stenosis refers to the narrowing of a patient’s fistula.


Stents are sometimes used to treat fistulas with decreased blood flow. A stent is a permanent implant that can be used in conjunction with an angioplasty to keep a patient’s fistula from narrowing. 


Similar to a bruit, a thrill is a good indication that a patient’s fistula is working as intended. A thrill is a vibration that can be felt on the skin next to the fistula.


Thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in a patient’s dialysis access. The blood clot blocks blood flow to the access and needs to be treated before dialysis treatment can continue.