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What is arteriovenous (AV) graft surgery?

man's arm with arteriovenous fistula scars for hemodialysis

Arteriovenous (AV) graft surgery creates a synthetic access point into the body’s circulatory system to perform dialysis. Dialysis removes wastes and extra fluid from your blood when the kidneys can no longer perform this function. This is known as kidney failure. AV graft surgery allows blood to flow from your body to the dialysis machine and back into your body after filtering.

AV graft surgery involves connecting a vein to an artery with an artificial tube or graft. The graft is usually made of synthetic material. Surgeons sometimes use a transplanted animal or human blood vessel. 

An arm is the usual location for an AV graft, but a thigh can also be used. The graft is tough and can tolerate the multiple needle punctures needed for dialysis better than a normal vein. After AV graft surgery, you will feel a “buzzing” sensation over the graft. 

AV graft surgery carries some risks and potential complications. It is only one option for dialysis access. Other options include an AV fistula (directly sewing an artery and a vein together) and a venous catheter, which is for short-term dialysis. I

AV graft surgery is generally for people who need long-term dialysis and have small or unhealthy blood vessels. You may have other dialysis access options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your dialysis access choices before having AV graft surgery.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 2, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Arteriovenous fistula. Encyclopedia of Surgery.
  2. Graft. DaVita.
  3. Guidelines for Vascular Access. National Kidney Foundation.
  4. Hemodialysis Access: What You Need to Know. National Kidney Foundation.
  5. Information for Patients. Your A-V Graft Questions & Answers. UC Davis Health System.
  6. Manual of Anesthesia Practice: Upper Extremity AV Fistula Placement. Anesthesiacentral.
  7. Vascular Access for Hemodialysis. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC).

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