What Is a Tenckhoff Catheter?

A Tenckhoff catheter is thin and flexible.
Tenckhoff catheters are normally used for peritoneal dialysis.
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  • Written By: P.S. Jones
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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A catheter is a tube that is inserted into a body cavity, duct, or vessel to allow drainage, injection of fluids, or access to surgical instruments. A Tenckhoff catheter is a thin, flexible tube, most often used in peritoneal dialysis. Peritoneal dialysis is a blood filtering treatment used for patients with severe chronic kidney failure.

The human kidneys filter the body’s blood of impurities and waste. When a patient suffers from renal failure and his kidneys are not able to function properly, a physician usually prescribes some kind of dialysis. Most types of dialysis replace some of the kidney’s functions by removing waste and other fluids from the patient’s blood with an artificial membrane located within the dialysis machine. The patient’s blood is pumped through the machine, filtered, and then pumped back into the body’s circulation.

On the other hand, peritoneal dialysis does not require that the patient’s blood be pumped outside of his body. Instead, the blood is cleaned while still inside the body. The organs in the abdomen are surrounded by the peritoneum, which is a membrane that allows waste products to pass through it. Peritoneal dialysis uses a Tenckhoff catheter to run the dialysis fluid, a sugar solution with some salts, into the abdominal, or peritoneal, cavity. This allows the patient’s blood to be filtered without pumping it through a dialysis machine.


The Tenckhoff catheter allows permanent access to the peritoneal cavity. One end of the catheter remains in the peritoneal cavity and the other extends outside of the body by about four inches. The end outside of the body allows the dialysis fluid to be put inside of the tube and is sealed off when fluid is not being pumped into the catheter. Peritoneal dialysis is for use with long-term dialysis and may be performed at home by the patient himself. This allows the patient to continue dialysis without making frequent visits to the dialysis clinic.

A Tenckhoff catheter may be placed in the body using a local anesthetic. Most patients says that the procedure is more uncomfortable than painful. A physician may also insert the catheter during a minor surgical procedure requiring a general anesthetic. In either option, the affected area must heal for at least two weeks before the catheter can be used.

Peritoneal dialysis can be effective, but should be monitored carefully. Leaks from the Tenckhoff catheter during the dialysis are common. Infections of the insertion site may also occur and must be treated immediately. Some patients on long-term peritoneal dialysis may also experience a thickening of the peritoneum, causing the dialysis to stop functioning correctly. If peritoneal dialysis cannot consistently be completed, the patient’s physician may suggest other types of dialysis.


Discuss this Article

Post 4

Can the tenckhoff catheter be used for a j-tube also?

Post 3

A Tenckhoff peritoneal catheter can be used in two different ways for peritoneal dialysis treatment: Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD), and Continuous Cycler-Assisted Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD).

The first process, CAPD, requires the patient to drain the bags into the abdomen at certain scheduled intervals. This treatment is good for people who are ambulatory and are willing and able to keep up with the strict schedule required.

The second process, CCPD, uses an automatic cycler to disperse the fluids into the abdomen. This can be really helpful for those who don't want to fool with a schedule of dispersal times, or for those who are unable to perform the dispersals without help.

CCPD even works overnight, so patients don't have to worry about ever being without their dosage.

Post 2

Did you know that the scarring of the abdoment hat comes with a Tenckhoff catheter insertion can actually help hold the catheter in place?

That's why many doctors tell patients that there is a breaking in period for their catheter. It's not like with shoes, that you have to break the shoes in -- it's breaking your body in, and getting it ready for the process.

Of course, this can make Tenckhoff catheter removal a little tricky sometimes, especially in the case of infection, but usually everything comes out just fine.

Post 1

What a great advance in medicine -- I bet that kidney failure patients were so happy when the Tenckhoff catheter came along so they didn't have to go to a dialysis clinic so much.

It sounds like it's just such a convenient thing -- but I think I'd be a little apprehensive putting my own dialysis fluid in, at least the first few times!

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