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To place an access, to get your blood, a surgeon will perform an operation to strengthen one of your veins or to put a soft tube inside your arm or thigh.
If possible, the surgeon will attach a vein and an artery together to form a ‘fistula’. This is the best possible type of access. If your veins are small or weak, the surgeon inserts a ‘graft’ instead. This is a soft tube connected to an artery on one end and a vein on the other. Blood runs through the graft.
Both a fistula and a graft are underneath the skin. The surgery needed to place an access is done in the hospital. This permanent access can take up to a few months to heal properly.
If you need dialysis before a permanent access is in place, the doctor will insert a temporary access. This is done by placing a special tube, called a ‘HD catheter’, in a large blood vessel in your neck or groin area.