Types of Dialysis Access | MedStar Health

Creating a way for your blood to reach a dialysis machine

If you have kidney failure, you’ll need dialysis therapy to clean and filter your blood. A surgically created vascular access allows blood to travel through the dialysis machine and return to the body.

The surgeons in our Vascular and Endovascular Program partner with kidney specialists (nephrologists) to provide you with the best options available. If at some point your dialysis access point becomes narrowed or clogged, they also can help resume normal blood flow.

What types of vascular access are available?

Your doctor will work with you to find the type of vascular access that will be most effective for your care. Potential options include:

  • Catheter access: Immediate or temporary access can be created using two plastic tubes connected to blood vessels in your neck or groin. Catheters have the highest rate of infection and are not often used for long-term dialysis.

  • Dialysis fistula: This is formed by connecting an artery to a vein in the arm. The connection to the artery causes the vein to grow over time and have a higher blood flow for dialysis. This type of access has the lowest rate of infection and can provide good blood flow for many years.

  • Dialysis graft: Tubing is used to connect an artery to a vein, often in the arm. The graft allows for dialysis to be performed sooner than with a fistula, but the rate of infection is higher because the access is not formed using natural tissue.



A fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses a continuous X-ray beam passed through the body to create real-time, moving images of your internal structures.

Our locations

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MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar St Mary's Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC, 20007

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

18101 Prince Philip Dr.
Olney, MD 20832

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

7503 Surratts Rd.
Clinton, MD 20735

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.