The use of ventricular assist devices (VAD) and total artificial heart (TAH) is increasing rapidly, and a large proportion of these device recipients already have or will develop severe renal dysfunction at the time of device implantation. As a consequence, nephrologists are becoming more and more involved in the care of this challenging population. As nephrologists take upon themselves many aspects of dialysis vascular access care, they need to be familiar with the special circumstances of performing hemodialysis catheter procedures in these patients. This review describes the important characteristics of these devices that have serious implications for the technique of placing or replacing dialysis catheters. These implications apply for both tunneled and nontunneled dialysis catheters and so concern all nephrologists, not only the interventionalists. We describe the important anatomical factors, anticoagulation management, device management, vascular access management and technical considerations of placing or replacing tunneled and nontunneled hemodialysis catheters from the perspective of a nephrologist establishing and maintaining lifesaving dialysis vascular access. Without a good understanding of these devices, serious consequences such as VAD rotor damage or blockage, or artificial heart valve blockage or damage can occur. These artificial devices are lifesaving, and any such complication is unacceptable. This review describes steps to minimize the risks.
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