The needle pricks kill a part of you every session

When I meet people on dialysis, I sometimes ask them what the worst thing about dialysis is. 'Fluid restrictions', some say. 'Can't eat fruit', say some others. 'Going to hospital thrice a week'. 'Needle pricks'.

All of them are bad. But in my humble opinion, if there was a way to remove the needle pricks during dialysis, life on dialysis would have been a much pleasanter experience. You start dreading the pain as soon as you think about the next session. By the time you are on the bed, you are a bundle of nerves. You are hoping you get the tech or the nurse who does a good job. (Of course you can't ask for him or her; you don't want to piss the others off - they will be cannulating you some day!)

I feel a little lidocaine to numb the area before cannulation may not be so bad after all. Yes, it does cause hardening of the tissue in the area but for me, it works well to reduce the pain dramatically. Of course, you have a funny situation because the lidocaine itself is painful! Delicious irony of life! But in my experience, the sum of both pains is less with lidocaine than without.

Yesterday, I was at a dialysis unit. There was an old lady ready for dialysis. A few minutes later, I heard her cry out in pain. My gut wrenched. Somehow, I can't take old ladies having pain. I just feel it is not fair at all. She had just been cannulated. I heard the techs reassuringly tell her, "Its over, its over"! She looked at them with a frown. It is often not the tech's fault. Cannulating with such a thick needle is bound to pain a bit however experienced or good you are.

The pain lasts only a few seconds, half a minute at most unless something is wrong. Some of you might wonder why such a big fuss for a few moments of pain? All I can say is experience it before you comment. The needles really kill a part of you every session.

There is a way to get dialysis without the pain. A permcath. Unfortunately, a permcath is prone to getting infected and it lasts only for a year or so. A fistula lasts decades but with a fistula, the pain comes free. Why couldn't it have been the other way round?


Hi Kamal,

I have to say that I made my peace with (sharp) needles; I stick them in without any anaesthetic injections or the like. The thing that changed it for me was the realization that pain is literally in the mind. It does hurt a bit now and then when I stick it in, especially when I hit a nerve, but overall I got over it. My theory: the knowledge that a needle is about to go in prepares the mind. It's unexpected pain that is harder to deal with.

I only got over it after I started self-cannulating. When the nurse was doing it, it was as you describe. So I don't dread the needle prick any more (I am only nervous about screwing up the insertion, I have done that a couple of times). I use 17G needles so maybe it's quite difference with 16G or the like.