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What is a tunneled dialysis catheter?

A tunneled dialysis catheter, also known as a tunneled cuffed catheter or a hemodialysis catheter, is a medical device used in patients with kidney failure who require hemodialysis. Hemodialysis is a procedure that removes waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys are unable to do so effectively.


A tunneled dialysis catheter consists of a long, thin tube typically made of medical-grade materials such as silicone. It has two separate lumens or tubes within it. One lumen is used to withdraw blood from the patient’s body and transport it to the hemodialysis machine, while the other lumen returns the cleaned blood back to the patient’s bloodstream.


What sets a tunneled dialysis catheter apart from a standard catheter is that it is surgically implanted beneath the skin through a small incision, with a segment of the catheter tunneling under the skin. This tunneling helps reduce the risk of infection and makes it more secure and long-lasting compared to non-tunneled catheters.


Tunneled dialysis catheters are typically inserted into large veins in the neck or chest, such as the internal jugular vein or subclavian vein. Once in place, they are secured with a cuff under the skin to prevent accidental dislodgment.


Tunneled dialysis catheters are generally used as a temporary access option while more permanent vascular access methods, like arteriovenous fistulas or grafts, are being prepared. They are considered less ideal for long-term hemodialysis because of the increased risk of infection and complications associated with their use over extended periods. However, they provide a quick and convenient solution for patients needing immediate dialysis access.

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