Dialysis is a treatment that removes wastes and excess fluid from your blood. Like healthy kidneys, dialysis keeps your body in balance. You do not need dialysis in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. If your kidneys start to fail, you will need a kidney transplant or dialysis to stay alive.
Your Northwest Kidney Centers doctor will help you decide when to start dialysis, based on results of lab tests that measure how much kidney function you have left and on your symptoms.
Dialysis is done with a unique liquid called dialysate. This fluid is a combination of pure water and carefully measured chemicals. It removes wastes from your blood without taking out any of the substances you need to stay healthy.
A semi-permeable membrane (having minuscule holes allowing only specific types of particles to pass through) keeps your blood separate from the dialysate. This lets the wastes and fluid in your blood travel into the dialysate. Blood cells and proteins that you need cannot fit through the holes.
In hemodialysis, an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer) is used to remove waste and extra chemicals and fluid from your blood. Your doctor will make an access point into your blood vessels using minor surgery. This access point allows your blood to travel to the hemodialyzer for flushing. Sometimes access is created by joining an artery to a vein under your skin, making a bigger blood vessel or fistula.
If your blood vessels are not the right size for a fistula, the doctor may use a soft plastic tube to join an artery and a vein under your skin. This is called a graft.
Sometimes, access is made using a narrow plastic tube called a catheter, which is inserted into a large vein in your neck. Your blood is then cleaned and returned to your body. This type of treatment needs to be done several times a week and usually lasts about three to four hours.
In peritoneal dialysis, your blood is cleaned right inside your body. Your doctor surgically places a plastic tube called a catheter into your abdomen to create an access point. During your treatment, your abdominal area (or peritoneal cavity) is slowly filled with dialysate through the catheter. Your blood stays in the veins and arteries that line your peritoneal cavity while extra fluid and waste products are drawn out of your blood and into the dialysate. This is a daily form of dialysis, and can sometimes be preformed at your home.
Discussing with your doctor what dialysis option is the best for you will help you manage your chronic kidney disease and keep you feeling as well as possible.