Overview of hemodialysis access and assessment

Can Fam Physician. 2022 Aug;68(8):577-582. doi: 10.46747/cfp.6808577.


Objective: To provide family physicians with an evidence-based overview on the various methods of vascular access for hemodialysis (HD) and to provide a framework for the clinical assessment of HD access.

Sources of information: A MEDLINE literature search was conducted using the MeSH terms arteriovenous fistula, arteriovenous graft, central venous catheter, and hemodialysis (or haemodialysis), including all relevant English-language articles published between January 1995 and September 2021.

Main message: The main types of permanent vascular access for HD are arteriovenous fistulas, arteriovenous grafts, and central venous catheters. A pragmatic, patient-centred approach is required when choosing the type of access for an individual. Common complications of vascular access creation include thrombosis, central venous stenosis, dialysis access steal syndrome, and arteriovenous fistula aneurysms.

Conclusion: Family physicians play an important role in the clinical assessment and monitoring of HD vascular access. A thorough clinical assessment can detect a failing arteriovenous fistula and any associated complications, which can allow for prompt investigation and intervention to restore functionality, maintain access longevity, and improve patient quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriovenous Fistula*
  • Arteriovenous Shunt, Surgical* / adverse effects
  • Central Venous Catheters*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Treatment Outcome