What is a Permanent Catheter?

The catheter used for long-term haemodialysis is a cuffed tunnelled catheter. It is called a tunnelled catheter as it is placed under the skin into one of the main veins usually the subclavian vein.
Catheters have two openings:

  • One is red in colour (arterial) and takes blood from your vein and out of your body to the dialysis machine.
  • And the other is blue in colour (venous) and allows the dialysed or ‘cleaned’ blood to return to your body.

How do I care for my Permanent Catheter?

By adhering to the following advice, you can help in preventing problems with your permanent catheter.

  • Keep the dressing clean and dry.
  • Ensure that the exit site (area around the catheter) is kept clean and the dressing is changed weekly or as recommended by your Consultant.
  • If you need to change your dressing at home, ensure you wash your hands prior to attending to the site to prevent infection. Ask the nursing staff to provide you with spare dressings and/or gloves for dressing change at home.
  • The caps/ bungs on your catheter should be kept tightly shut when not being used for dialysis.
  • Ensure that it is only ever staff in the dialysis unit that draws blood or administers medications or fluids using your catheter.
  • If your catheter exit site is red, itchy and painful or if there is any drainage from it, inform the staff at Beacon Renal as soon as possible. These can all be signs of an infection.
  • Other signs and symptoms of catheter/ line infection are a fever, general weakness or chills. If any of these do occur telephone the staff at Beacon Renal, attend your GP or local Emergency Dept.

Treatment of a catheter/ line infection depends on the type of infection present and may require, antibiotic treatment either by mouth or intravenously.

  • Monitor your catheter for any kinking/ bulging of the tube. Report to nursing staff.
  • If your catheter becomes dislodged or falls out (a rare occurrence), apply pressure to the area to reduce the amount of bleeding and contact the ambulance service quickly for transfer to hospital.