The Kidney Dialysis Procedure

Kidney Dialysis Can Be a Life Saver

kidney dialysisWhat is kidney dialysis? What is renal dialysis? Many people have heard these terms, but don't really know what they are, how they're done done or how they work.

First of all, kidney dialysis and renal dialysis are the same thing. The word "renal" is a term used by medical professionals to describe anything related to the kidneys. The words can be used interchangeably.

The kidney dialysis procedure is required in cases of end stage kidney failure--usually by the time eighty-five to ninety percent of kidney function is lost. In the U.S. today more than 100,000 individuals undergo kidney dialysis treatments to stay alive.

The kidney dialysis procedure is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys, but does it artificially using machines and technology. It removes waste, salt and extra water to prevent these substances from building up in the body

Kidney dialysis also keeps a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate and helps control blood pressure.

As mentioned, renal dialysis does some of the work of healthy kidneys, but kidney dialysis does not cure kidney disease. It's not yet known how long patients on kidney dialysis can live, but it's believed that some patients may live as long as people without kidney failure.

Patients usually have to be on a special diet which may vary according to the type of dialysis.

There are two types of kidney dialysis --hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.


Hemodialysis involves an artificial kidney, or hemodialyzer, to remove waste, chemicals, toxins and fluid from the blood. A doctor makes an entrance or "access" into the blood vessels to connect a patient to a kidney dialysis machine. This is done by minor surgery to an arm or leg.

Sometimes, an access is made by joining an artery to a vein under the skin to make a bigger blood vessel called a fistula.

If the patient's blood vessels are not adequate for a fistula, the doctor may use a soft plastic tube to join an artery and a vein under the skin. This is called a graft.

Once in a while, an access is made by means of a narrow plastic tube, or catheter, which is inserted into a large vein in the neck. This type of access may be temporary, but is sometimes used for long-term treatment.

Usually, each hemodialysis treatment lasts about four hours and is done three times per week. The length of dialysis treatments actually depend on

  • how well the kidneys are working
  • how much fluid weight the patient gains between kidney dialysis treatments
  • how much waste the patient has in the body
  • the physical size of the patient
  • the type of artificial kidney used

A type of hemodialysis called high-flux dialysis may take less time.

Peritoneal dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis involves a procedure that cleans the blood while it's inside the body.

The doctor places a catheter into the patient's abdomen to make an access. The patient's abdominal area, which is known as the peritoneal cavity, is slowly filled with dialysate through the catheter. The blood remains in the arteries and veins that line the peritoneal cavity. Extra fluid and waste products are drawn out of the blood and into the dialysate.

Kidney failure is not always permanent. In some cases of acute kidney failure, kidney dialysis may only be required for a short time.

But in chronic or end stage kidney failure, the kidneys can never recover and kidney dialysis is needed for the rest of he patient's life.

Kidney dialysis can be done in a number of places, including a hospital, a kidney dialysis unit that is not part of a hospital, or at home. Kidney dialysis centers are located in every part of the United States and in many foreign countries. The treatment is standardized.

Many renal dialysis patients can go back to work after they have gotten used to dialysis. However, if the patient's job requires a lot of heavy lifting, digging, or other kinds of physical labor, they may need to look for a different job.

To see a related video, click on hemodialysis video.

Learn more about how to cope with kidney dialysis by clicking on

Living With Kidney Dialysis

living with kidney dialysis