Making Hemodialysis Less Painful To Improve The Lives Of Chronic Kidney Disease Patients

A viewer wrote, "Ouch, my arm is still extremely sore and I am in pain after my Dialysis Treatment yesterday! Everything is okay until the needles come out. If this continues, I am just going to stop my treatment. Is it better to have the needles pulled out quickly or slowly?"

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The vast majority of Chronic Kidney Disease patients who conduct Dialysis choose the In Center or Home Hemodialysis Treatment option, and of those patients the large majority use Arteriovenous (AV) Fistulas for their treatments. Inputting needles and taking them out is different for every Dialysis patient, and some aren't bothered by it very much at all, while others constantly worry about the pain which adds to their fear and anxiety associated with Dialysis. 

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Some patients have noted that they have "passed out at the sight of a needle" or "screamed in agony" while being taken off of the Hemodialysis machine. Thus, by making Dialysis less painful, Chronic Kidney Disease patients quality of lives will also improve and they will be more likely to adhere to their recommended Dialysis schedules thereby assisting in their long term survival.

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Regardless of whether you are less bothered by removing your Dialysis needles or it is a major issue for you, the prospect of a 16, 15, or 14 gauge needle being stuck and removed from a Dialysis patient's arm can be a bit daunting. Hence, some quick Dialysis "needling" tips can make the process much easier:

1. Request that your Patient Care Technician or Nurse withdraws the needle as quickly and safely as possible to minimize discomfort. Check the site at least once more a short time after the needle removal to ensure that no bleeding, swelling, or other signs of a reaction are present.

2. Chronic Kidney Disease patients conducting Dialysis may consider applying EMLA Cream (2.5% concentrated Lidocaine or Prilocaine) about 45-60 minutes before dialysis to numb the area where they will be stuck and the needle will be removed.  Although Chronic Kidney Disease patients on Dialysis can get the cream at a drug store, they will have to discuss using it with their Nephrologists as EMLA requires a prescription.

3. Another solution is Pain Ease, a spray that “freezes” the area in which the needle will be stuck and removed. Dialysis patients have noted that, "it sure makes the insertion and removal of the GIANT needles easier on me!"

4. Distract yourself by thinking about what your plans are after Dialysis or over the weekend. If you want, count down in your head or pray. You could try bringing an iPod with you and listen to music to take your mind off the needle placement and/or removal.
5. Remind yourself that inputting and removing needles are medically necessary and critical for your effective life saving Dialysis Treatment. Your greater health is being helped by this procedure, even if you are temporarily hurting.

6. Give yourself a nice reward after your treatment. Okay, so the needle itself doesn't feel so good. But if you give yourself a small treat or responsibly indulge afterward, you may be more likely to associate the experience with at least something positive.

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It’s normal to experience a little discomfort and soreness after Dialysis, but arm pain that lasts much longer may be more serious. If it occurs, the best course of action is to see your Nephrologists and make sure there are no signs of nerve damage, Hematoma (collection of blood outside of a blood vessel), or infection at the site of the needle stick. 

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