Minneapolis Vascular Surgery Center - tunneled catheter

By: Minnesota Vascular Surgery Center  11-11-2011
Keywords: Dialysis, Kidney Doctor

Tunneled Catheter

Questions and Answers about Tunneled Catheter for Hemodialysis Access
Together, your kidney doctor and you have chosen hemodialysis as the option to treat your renal failure. You have also seen a surgeon or a radiologist to determine which access will work best for you. It has been determined that you should have a tunneled dialysis catheter placed. Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about tunneled dialysis catheters.

Q: What is a tunneled catheter?
A: A tunneled catheter is plastic tubing that is “tunneled” under your skin and inserted into a vein. There will always be a portion of the catheter that lies outside the skin.

Q: Will it hurt to get this catheter placed?
A: The doctor will clean the skin very well in the area that the catheter will be inserted. The doctor will then give you some medicine to numb the area. The medicine will sting initially, but after the medicine takes effect, you should only feel pressure while the catheter is being inserted.

Q: How do I care for my new tunneled catheter?
A: Please follow these instructions:


  • DO call 911 immediately if you experience:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
  • DO report any fever, itching, pain, swelling, bleeding, foul smell or drainage immediately to your doctor or dialysis unit.
  • DO keep the dressing over the insertion site clean, dry and intact.
  • DO get the dressing changed every other day at the dialysis unit.
  • DO let only trained dialysis personnel change your catheter dressing.
  • DO wear a mask when changing your dressing and make sure anyone cleaning your insertion site wears a mask too.
  • DO take showers only on dialysis days and avoid getting your catheter dressing wet. Cover catheter with a clear wrap or use hand held shower head to protect your catheter from moisture.
  • DO check that the catheter clamps several times a day and verify that they are closed.
  • DO wear a shirt with buttons to dialysis to allow for easy access to the catheter.


  • DO NOT get the dressing wet.
  • DO NOT ever go swimming or submerge your catheter in any type of water.
  • DO NOT pull on your catheter.
  • DO NOT move your catheter excessively.
  • DO NOT scratch your catheter insertion site if it itches.
  • DO NOT remove the insertion site dressing.
  • DO NOT use sharp objects around your catheter.

Keywords: Dialysis, Kidney Doctor

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