The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently posted a health advisory for dialysis facilities. The CDC has received an increased number of reports of newly acquired hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among patients on hemodialysis. They urge dialysis facilities to assess and improve their infection control practices.
Preventing Infections in Dialysis Units
When you go to dialysis, there are many things you should be aware of to reduce the chances of spreading an infection. As a dialysis patient, you must understand the steps your healthcare team should take to reduce the risk of your developing an infection. Here are some tips to help you talk with your healthcare team to make sure you are not exposed to infection while having your dialysis treatment.
What standard precautions should my dialysis care team follow to prevent the spread of infections in the dialysis unit?
The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed a set of standard precautions, which should be followed by the dialysis care team in all units. You should be aware of these precautions, and speak to the members of your care team if you have any questions about them.
Your nurse or patient care technician should do the following:
- Wear clean gowns, disposable gloves and face shields or masks and protective eyewear when starting your dialysis treatment and later when disconnecting you from the machine.
- Wear disposable gloves and face shields or masks and protective eyewear when doing any procedures involving your access.
- Change gloves after beginning a treatment, before touching any environmental surface such as dialysis machines, charts and phones, and after each patient contact.
- Wash hands when entering patient areas, before putting on gloves and after removing them.
- Clean and disinfect the treatment area between patient shifts.
- Maintain separate areas for “clean” (e.g., medication prep) and “soiled” (e.g., blood samples) items.
- Use a separate room and a dedicated dialysis machine and avoid dialyzer reuse for patients who are positive for hepatitis B.
- Do a blood test for hepatitis B and C on all new patients and do routine follow-up testing on susceptible patients.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the standard precautions, you can view the website here.
Is dialyzer reuse safe?
Some units use the same dialyzer (artificial kidney) more than once on the same patient. This is generally considered safe if done properly. The dialyzer should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before each use. The dialyzer should be labeled carefully with the patient’s name. Check the label on your dialyzer before each treatment. Dialyzer reuse should be avoided for patients who test positive for hepatitis B.
What can I do to protect myself?
Be involved in your treatment! Infection control is a two-way street.
- Keeping your hands, fistula site and other parts of your body clean by washing with soap and water can help reduce the risk of spreading infections.
- Be sure you are up to date with your vaccines.
- Talk to your doctor about your hepatitis C status. Be screened annually for hepatitis.
- Let your healthcare team know if you think you may have signs of an infection.
Where can I learn more?
For more information on infectious diseases for dialysis patients and their families visit: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/what_infectdiseases
For more information on safety alerts and recalls affecting kidney patients visit: http://kcercoalition.com/resources/alerts-and-recall-notifications/