Healthy kidneys clean your blood and remove extra fluid in the form of urine. They also make substances that keep your body healthy. Dialysis replaces some of these functions when your kidneys no longer work.
There are two different types of dialysis -
When is dialysis needed?
You need dialysis if your kidneys no longer remove enough wastes and fluid from your blood to keep you healthy. This usually happens when you have only 10 to 15 percent of your kidney function left.
Your doctor is the best person to tell you when you should start dialysis.
How does hemodialysis work?
Hemodialysis is a procedure where a dialysis machine and a special filter called an artificial kidney, or a dialyzer, are used to clean your blood. To get your blood into the dialyzer, the doctor needs to make an access, or entrance, into your blood vessels. This is done with minor surgery, usually to your arm.
How does the dialyzer clean my blood?
The dialyzer, or filter, has two parts, one for your blood and one for a washing fluid called dialysate. A thin membrane separates these two parts. Blood cells, protein and other important things remain in your blood because they are too big to pass through the membrane. Smaller waste products in the blood, such as urea, creatinine, potassium and extra fluid pass through the membrane and are washed away.
Where is hemodialysis done?
Hemodialysis can be done in a hospital, in a dialysis center that is not part of a hospital or at home. You and your doctor will decide which place is best, based on your medical condition, and your wishes.
How long will each hemodialysis treatment last?
In a dialysis center, hemodialysis is usually done 3 times per week for about 4 hours at a time.
People who choose to do hemodialysis at home may do dialysis treatment more frequently, 4-7 times per week for shorter hours each time.
Your doctor will give you a prescription that tells you how much treatment you need. Studies have shown that getting the right amount of dialysis improves your overall health, keeps you out of the hospital and enables you to live longer.
Can I have hemodialysis at home?
Possibly. Many patients have their hemodialysis treatments at home.
Do I need to eat a special diet?
Yes. Generally speaking, patients on dialysis are advised to increase their protein intake and limit the amount of potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and fluid in their diet.
Patients with diabetes or other health conditions may have additional diet restrictions. It's important to talk with you dietitian about your individual diet needs.
Can dialysis cure my kidney disease?
In some cases of sudden or acute kidney failure, dialysis may only be needed for a short time until the kidneys get better. However, when chronic kidney disease progresses to kidney failure over time, your kidneys do not get better and you will need dialysis for the rest of your life unless you are able to receive a kidney transplant.
Will I be uncomfortable on hemodialysis?
When you begin hemodialysis, the needles put in your fistula or graft may be uncomfortable. Most patients get used to this in time. Your dialysis care team will make sure you are as comfortable as possible during your treatment.
Symptoms like cramps, headaches, nausea or dizziness are not common, but if you do have any of them, ask your dialysis care team if any of the following steps could help you:
I have heard I might have to reuse my dialyzer each treatment. Is this safe?
Before you reuse your dialyzer, your dialysis center cleans it according to careful guidelines. If done properly, reuse is generally safe. Before each treatment, your dialyzer must be tested to make sure it is still working well.
If your dialyzer no longer works well, it should be discarded and you should be given a new one. Ask your dialysis care team if they have tested your dialyzer and if it still works well.
If you do not wish to reuse your dialyzer, your center may be willing to provide you with a new dialyzer for each treatment.
Can dialysis patients travel?
Yes. Dialysis centers are located in every part of the country and in many foreign countries.
Before you travel, you must make an appointment for dialysis treatments at another center.
Can dialysis patients continue to work?
Yes. Many dialysis patients continue to work or return to work after they have gotten used to dialysis. If your job has a lot of physical labor (heavy lifting, digging, etc.), you may need to change your duties.
How does peritoneal dialysis work?
A soft plastic tube (catheter) is placed in your belly by surgery. A sterile cleansing fluid is put into your belly through this catheter. After the filtering process is finished, the fluid leaves your body through the catheter.
There are two kinds of peritoneal dialysis:
The basic treatment is the same for each. However, the number of treatments and the way the treatments are done make each method different.
What kind of peritoneal dialysis is best?
The type of peritoneal dialysis that is best for you depends on your personal choice and your medical condition. Your doctor will help you to choose the one that is best for you.
What are the pros and cons about being on peritoneal dialysis?
Peritoneal dialysis is not for everyone. People must receive training and be able to perform correctly each of the steps of the treatment. A trained helper may also be used.