The failure of dialysis access is a frequent source of morbidity and hospitalization. Traditional methods of graft surveillance include: (1) clinical examination, (2) venous line pressure measurements during dialysis, (3) urea or tracer recirculation measurement, (4) continuous wave (CW) Doppler methods, (5) duplex ultrasonography, and (6) radiograph angiography. All these methods require special training and/or laboratory tests. The purpose of this study was to test a simple continuous-wave Doppler method that could be applied to measure the flow rate in dialysis access every time the patient undergoes dialysis. Twenty dialysis patients, 15 with polytetrafluoroethylene grafts and 5 with arteriovenous fistulae, were studied. Two hundred fifty-three examinations were performed over an 8-month period. Doppler waveforms of the access flow were obtained with the pump on, with the pump off, and with the pump on again. Systolic and diastolic Doppler frequency measurements were made, and the pump-on and pump-off measurements were compared. In an access functioning normally, the Doppler frequencies are higher with the pump off than with the pump on. In 22% of the cases, there were abnormal findings in which the Doppler frequencies were lower with the pump off than with the pump on. This occurs if the needles are incorrectly placed, suggesting that recirculation is occurring. Recirculation also occurs if there is stenosis of the access. Examining the hemodialysis access during each dialysis session with an inexpensive directional Doppler may identify a significant stenosis and improve the efficiency of dialysis by detecting those patients in whom the arterial and venous needles are reversed.