What Nephrologists Need to Know about Vascular Access Cannulation


Lesley C. Dinwiddie, Vascular Access for Hemodialysis, 209 W Green Forest Dr., Cary, NC, 27518. e-mail: lesleyd@nc.rr.com


This article describes cannulation events, especially problems, common and rare, minor and major, to aid the nephrologist (and mid-level providers e.g. nurse practitioner and physician’s assistant) in decision-making to prevent or treat cannulation-related adverse outcomes. The usual management, potential outcomes, nephrologist intervention, and prevention are discussed and include: assessment of arteriovenous (AV) access and readiness for cannulation; initial cannulation of both arteriovenous fistulas and grafts; needle size and adequacy; needle direction and potential for recirculation; limited cannulation sites/buttonhole; pain and fear of pain; prevention of bleeding; management of infiltrations/extravasations; prevention and management of “one-site-itis”; prevention and management of infection. It concludes with the importance of the medical director as the leader of the continuous quality improvement (CQI) team in preventing/reducing cannulation-related adverse events.