Dialysis Shunt (Fistula) Bleeding

Dialysis Shunt (Fistula) Bleeding

You have a dialysis shunt in your arm (also called a fistula). It has been bleeding. Blood needs to flow freely through the shunt tube. As part of your treatment, you are also taking medication that thins your blood. This makes you bleed more easily. It is important to stop your shunt from bleeding as soon as possible—you can quickly bleed to death from a shunt.

For a quickly bleeding shunt, use firm pressure with a gauze or cloth until it stops.

Home Care

If your shunt is bleeding:

  • If it is bleeding quickly, immediately put pressure right on the spot that is bleeding with a gauze or cloth. Push hard till it stops. Then, get medical help right away.

  • If it is just oozing a small amount of blood, follow these directions:

  • Wash your hands. Dry them on a clean towel.

  • Put a small piece of sterile gauze on the area that is bleeding.

  • Press gently with your fingertips only on the area that is bleeding. Hold your fingers there for 30 minutes. Do not press on the whole forearm. Do not wrap anything around the wrist or arm, including bandages.

  • After 30 minutes, take your fingers off the area that was bleeding.

  • Wash and dry your hands again.

  • If it is still bleeding, call your doctor or go to a hospital emergency department.

General Shunt Care

  • Wash your hands often. Keep the shunt area clean.

  • Check the shunt for the pulsing feeling (“thrill”) every morning and night.

  • Do not:

    • Let anyone take your blood pressure on your shunt arm.

    • Let anyone take blood from or inject medication into the arm.

    • Wear jewelry or tight sleeves over the shunt.

    • Wiggle the shunt or pick at your skin near the shunt.

    • Carry anything over the arm or lift heavy objects with that arm.

    • Sleep on your shunt arm.

Follow Up

as advised by the doctor or our staff.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if you have:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Red, hot, or swollen area around the shunt

  • Light-colored fluid coming from the area around the shunt

  • Pain or hardness around the shunt

  • Loss of pulsing feeling (“thrill”) over the shunt

  • Pain, cold, or numbness in the hand that won’t go away

  • Pale color of the hand that won’t go back to pink

  • Change of color of the blood in the shunt tube

  • Any major bleeding, or minor bleeding from the shunt that won’t stop