AV Fistula and Graft Intervention


There are two types of permanent vascular access for dialysis: arteriovenous (AV) fistula and arteriovenous (AV) graft. A surgeon creates an AV fistula by connecting an artery directly to a vein, most commonly in the forearm. Alternatively, a surgeon creates an AV graft by connecting an artery to a vein using a synthetic tube or graft.
Sometimes the blood flow from an AV fistula or AV graft becomes too low due to a narrowing, a blood clot or because collateral, or accessory, blood vessel forms and is diverting blood flow. An interventional radiologist can correct these problems with fistula intervention or graft intervention.

How is the procedure performed?

Using live X-ray (fluoroscopy) for guidance, the doctor will insert a tiny tube, called a catheter into a vein or artery, usually in the arm or leg, and guide it to the fistula or graft.
Then one of three things will happen:
  • For a narrowing, the doctor will thread a small, deflated balloon through the catheter then slowly inflate the balloon to widen the narrowing. Sometimes more than one balloon is used.
  • For a blood clot, the catheter will be connected to a small machine that sprays a saline solution onto the clot to break it up, and then suctions out the pieces of the clot. The procedure may need to be repeated.
  • For a collateral blood vessel, the doctor will thread a tiny metal coil through the catheter and place it in the vessel. This will block blood from flowing into the collateral blood vessel, restoring the full flow of blood into the graft or fistula. Sometimes more than one coil is placed.

What risks are associated with the procedure?

The procedure is considered low risk. However, potential complications include:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to the artery and/or vein
  • Contrast reaction (allergic reaction to X-ray dye)
  • Pulmonary embolus (blood clot in the lung)

Will I be awake for the procedure?

No. Depending on your medical history, we will give either intravenous sedation or general anesthesia.

What happens after the procedure?

You will be taken to a recovery room and in some cases may be admitted to the hospital for observation. You might have some mild discomfort. Check with your primary care physician whether you can take over-the-counter pain medication.

When can I bathe?

The bandage must stay dry and in place for 48 hours. You may sponge bathe during this time, as long as the bandage stays dry. After 48 hours you may remove the clear bandage and gauze and you can take a shower or take a bath, as long as the site isn’t immersed in water. Leave the white strips in place. Do not immerse the site in water until the white strips fall off. If they haven’t fallen off after seven (07) days, you may remove them at that time.

Are there any activity restrictions?

You may return to normal activity as tolerated.
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