The Importance of Maintaining Good Vein Health
Many people underestimate the importance of maintaining good vein health and the difference that can be made once you start. The job of the vein is to be the vessel that transports blood throughout the body and most importantly to the heart. If vein health is not prioritised it becomes likely that issues of poor circulation and thin veins will arise. This can become a problem in times where someone may require regular drawing of blood or surgery as it is important that the arm veins are large so that they are easy to locate and/or perform a procedure on.
More specifically, it is important for people to have large healthy arm veins before receiving hemodialysis treatments. Haemodialysis refers to a procedure where a machine acts as an artificial kidney to clean and process blood when for whatever reason your kidneys are unable to. At the end of 2016 there were 12,706 people in Australia receiving dialysis treatments with this number said to rise to approx. 30,000 by 2020. Dialysis can be administered at home, in a hospital and most popularly by satellite dialysis which is through specialised centers.
It is very common for people who receive dialysis to require getting an AV fistula which is a surgical procedure that sews an artery together with a nearby vein, making the vein bigger, thicker, stronger and therefore easier to access with a needle. Once created, an AV fistula is used as the physical point during hemodialysis that two needles are inserted into, one for the blood to be extracted through and one for the hemodialysis machine filtered blood to enter back into the vein through. AV fistulas are considered as the most reliable surgical procedure of its kind as it optimises high blood flow, poses a lower risk of infection and blood clots which many alternatives run the risk of.
Once an AV fistula has been surgically created the process does not stop there as there is a level of upkeep that needs to be maintained to ensure that the vein stays healthy. It is important to exercise regularly to keep blood flowing and circulating through the new fistula. Exercise and repetitive movements evidently help the fistula get stronger making it easier to insert a needle into while also helping to strengthen the muscles around the fistula so that they can better support it.
In addition to exercise, research has shown that intermittent compression and use of rubber tourniquets can help to dilate veins. This can be done with motions such as squeezing a foam ball in the hand that the fistula is in and repeating a squeezing and relaxing motion for approximately 5 minutes, repeating this process 3-4 times a day. This routine can be tedious and regardless of its importance is often forgotten, leading to a 20-60% fistula surgery failure rate and many people having issues with their overall vein health.
A company named “FistAssist” has created a device that offers a more convenient solution. The device wraps around the upper arm and automatically inflates and deflates, compressing the vein intermittently to increase blood circulation. The device is to be worn for a minimum of 2 hours daily and requires no additional actions between turning the device on and off.