Dealing with the Unexpected
Nurses and patient care technicians will watch you during your treatment. If you start to feel strange or sick, alert them right away. Don’t worry about “bothering” staff—if you don’t say anything, they won’t be able to help you feel better.
Low blood pressure: During your treatment, your blood pressure may go up or down due to the movement and removal of fluid from your body. Blood pressure can drop when too much fluid is removed, when it is removed too fast, or as a side effect of some drugs. You will know right away if your blood pressure has dropped too low, because you may feel:
- Severe, painful muscle cramps
If your blood pressure drops, your team will teach you to drink something salty or add some saline (sterile saltwater solution) into your bloodlines to ease the symptoms. If you feel faint shortly after your treatment, don’t try to drive. Stay in the waiting room and alert the staff. They may have you drink a bit more or lie down for a few minutes until you feel better.
Broken blood cells: If there is a kink or twist in the bloodlines, the pressure of the blood pump can cause the blood cells to break. If you feel any pain in your chest, back, or stomach during a hemodialysis treatment, or you see that the blood in your tubing or dialyzer is a lighter (cherry kool-aid) color than usual, call the care team right away. These are symptoms that can give them a clue that your blood cells are breaking.
Access clotting: A graft or fistula that clots off won’t allow blood flow for dialysis. You’ll learn how to feel the thrill, or rushing sensation of blood through your access. If the thrill stops or the bruit sound changes, call your care team right away.