Dialysis is one of the two options for people who have reached end stage renal disease. Once your kidneys have lost enough function, patients need either dialysis or transplant to replace their failed kidneys. You cannot live with completely failed kidneys, which is why either dialysis or transplant is required.
What is dialysis?
Dialysis is a medical procedure that replaces the function of the kidneys. There are two types of dialysis- hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis by far.
Hemodialysis involves using a machine to remove your blood, filter it through the machine that acts like a kidney to remove waste, and then return the filtered blood back into your body. This is all done through a catheter in your arm.
Peritoneal dialysis is done through a port in your stomach. There are two methods of peritoneal dialysis. One method utilizes a special fluid that is inserted into the abdomen and then drained and replaced three to five times per day. The special fluid, called dialysate, absorbs waste so it can be removed from your body. The other method of peritoneal dialysis utilizes a smaller machine that cleans the fluid overnight.
What exactly does dialysis do?
Dialysis replaces the function of your kidneys by removing waste and excess materials in your blood.
Why is dialysis necessary?
Once you have reached end stage renal disease, you need to replace the function of your kidneys in order to live. This means either a transplant or dialysis is absolutely necessary to live. Transplant is not always an option or there can be long waiting lists, and so dialysis is needed.
Where is dialysis performed?
Hemodialysis is performed in a dialysis center or hospital. It can sometimes be performed in your own home as well, but the equipment can be expensive or hard to manage. A home nurse would be required to help you in your own home, just like nurses assist you at dialysis centers. Peritoneal dialysis can be performed pretty much anywhere, but is much less common.
How often is dialysis necessary?
Hemodialysis is typically performed three times a week. Peritoneal dialysis is usually a daily occurrence and is performed multiple times throughout the day, depending on the method chosen.
How long does each dialysis session take?
Each hemodialysis session takes a few hours. Changing the dialysate fluid for peritoneal dialysis takes around 30 minutes each time.
Does dialysis hurt?
Dialysis is a relatively painless procedure. The only part of the procedure that is very invasive is the insertion of the catheter or port, and this is generally done just once. Once the catheter is in place, dialysis is pretty much a “plug and go” procedure, where once you are hooked up to the machine, you can relax and read, watch television, or even nap.
If you have many questions about dialysis and end stage renal disease, talk to your doctor about your concerns. You should also consider setting up a meeting with your nearby dialysis center so they can show you what dialysis looks like and how it is done. Seeing the process in person may help alleviate any fears you may have about this life saving procedure. For more answers about dialysis, click here.