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About Dialysis Safety

Patients who undergo dialysis treatment have an increased risk for getting a healthcare-associated infection (HAI), an infection patients may get during the course of their medical treatment. There are two reasons for increased risk among dialysis patients. First, chronic hemodialysis patients can have weakened immune systems, making it harder for their bodies to fight off infections. Second, hemodialysis treatment – a method for cleansing the blood of waste when the kidneys cannot do it by themselves – requires frequent access to the patient’s bloodstream. This access to the blood supply provides an entry point for possible infection.

Usually, dialysis is provided in a facility that allows many patients to be treated at the same time. This gives germs opportunities to spread between patients if proper infection prevention steps are not followed, possibly leading to HAIs. Infections can be spread directly or indirectly via the hands of healthcare personnel or via contaminated devices, equipment, supplies, and environmental surfaces.

CDC is working to prevent HAIs in dialysis and other settings. Clinicians, patients, and state health departments play a critical role in the prevention of these infections. Many hemodialysis patients also need surgery and frequent hospital care, factors that increase their risk of exposure to HAIs such as Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI).

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