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What is Dialysis Used For?

Those familiar with kidney disease may have heard the term “dialysis” before, but few may comprehend the actual use of dialysis or how it helps patients.

Those familiar with kidney disease may have heard the term “dialysis” before, but few may comprehend the actual use of dialysis or how it helps patients. Dialysis is a treatment used for those with severely damaged kidneys, and it is also used as a final treatment option for kidney disease before an organ transplant.

How Does Dialysis Work?

Dialysis involves the use of special equipment to filter blood outside the body. Blood travels through a tube and is filtered using a machine that removes impurities from the blood. The purified blood then returns to the body through another tube.

Dialysis treatment can happen in either a nocturnal setting with a home dialysis unit or at a dialysis center. In most cases, patients get three treatments each week for several hours each day. However, the exact time needed for dialysis depends on:

  • How well your kidneys work
  • How much fluid weight you gain between treatments
  • How much waste is in your body
  • Your size (height and weight)

Types of Dialysis

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.


Hemodialysis is used more often than peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis involves the insertion of a tube called a catheter into your blood vessel or fistula, which is created by joining an artery and vein under the skin. Blood travels through the tube, where it is cleaned using a hemodialyzer machine before returning to the body. Patients may complete this form of dialysis either at home or in a dialysis center.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your abdomen (peritoneum) to filter the blood. This lining of the belly has the remarkable ability to remove toxins, correct potassium levels, and remove excess fluid from the body, similar to the kidney.

Peritoneal dialysis can be completed entirely at home after being trained on the process by their provider. After surgically inserting a catheter into your abdominal cavity, we wait two weeks for the site to heal before beginning training.

Learn more about how peritoneal dialysis is performed here.

When Does Dialysis Become Necessary?

Dialysis is necessary when the kidneys are no longer able to work at their full capacity. The reduced ability of the kidneys to filter wastes and extra fluid from the body places you at risk for heart and blood vessel damage, as well as high levels of potassium and acid in the blood.

Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) often end up on dialysis if their condition progresses too far. However, most people with kidney disease do not have symptoms until the kidney function is very low, making early detection an essential step in stopping kidney disease from worsening.

Risk Factors for Kidney Disease Include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Family history of renal failure
  • Smoking

Can You Ever Come Off Dialysis?

Unfortunately, once a patient needs dialysis, they cannot stop treatment unless they receive a kidney transplant. However, dialysis becomes an essential part of keeping a patient with CKD alive. Without dialysis, a patient is likely to die within weeks or months.

Dialysis treatment also allows patients to live relatively normal lives and remain active and productive members of society. Dialysis treatments allow patients to feel well enough for work and school and interact with family and friends throughout the day.

Fortunately, dialysis has become a life-saving treatment for those with CKD and has drastically improved the outlook of those with this condition.

How to Prevent Needing Dialysis

The best way for patients to prevent needing dialysis is to improve their kidney function. Providers can help you by monitoring your blood pressure, weight and excess fluid levels regularly.

Essentially, we need to ensure that we can keep your kidneys healthy for as long as possible. So, early detection and regular appointments with your doctor are of the utmost importance.

Contact The Kidney and Hypertension Center

Although dialysis is life-saving, it is not the most pleasant of experiences. Therefore, prevention and preventive care should always be considered first. If you are concerned about the health of your or a loved one’s kidneys, please request an appointment with The Kidney and Hypertension Center today.

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