Exsanguination of a home hemodialysis patient as a result of misconnected blood-lines during the wash back procedure: a case report

BMC Nephrol. 2012 May 15;13:28. doi: 10.1186/1471-2369-13-28.


Background: Home hemodialysis is common in New Zealand and associated with lower cost, improved survival and better patient experience. We present the case of a fully trained home hemodialysis patient who exsanguinated at home as a result of an incorrect wash back procedure.

Case presentation: The case involves a 67 year old male with a history of well controlled hypertension and impaired glucose tolerance. He commenced on peritoneal dialysis in 2006 following the development of end stage kidney failure secondary to focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. He transferred to hemodialysis due to peritoneal membrane failure in 2010, and successfully trained for home hemodialysis over a 20 week period. Following one month of uncomplicated dialysis at home, he was found deceased on his machine at home in the midst of dialysis. His death occurred during the wash back procedure performed using the "open circuit" method, and resulted from misconnection of the saline bag to the venous end of the extracorporeal blood circuit instead of the arterial end. This led to approximately 2.3L of his blood being pumped into the saline bag resulting in hypovolaemic shock and death from exsanguination.

Conclusions: Despite successful training, critical procedural errors can still be made by patients on home hemodialysis. In this case, the error involved misconnection of the saline bag for wash back. This case should prompt providers of home hemodialysis to review their training protocols and manuals. Manufacturers of dialysis machinery should be encouraged to design machines specifically for home hemodialysis, and consider distinguishing the arterial and venous ends of the extracorporeal blood circuit with colour coding or incompatible connectivity, to prevent occurrences such as these in the future.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Exsanguination / etiology*
  • Exsanguination / prevention & control*
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Hemodialysis, Home / adverse effects*
  • Hemodialysis, Home / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Male