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Dialysis for Kidney Failure

April 15, 2022 In Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people each year. The kidneys are two small, bean-shaped organs that filter out waste products from the blood. When a person experiences kidney failure, the kidneys are unable to perform their job—leading to dangerous complications.

One of the treatments for end-stage kidney failure is dialysis. During dialysis, the treatment performs the function of the kidneys by filtering and cleaning your blood on your behalf. If you develop kidney disease, you may need to attend regular dialysis sessions during the later stages of the condition.

When Do Patients Need Dialysis?

Patients need dialysis when their kidneys are no longer able to filter waste and fluids from the blood. There are two types of kidney failure: acute kidney failure, which is the sudden loss of kidney function; and chronic kidney disease, which is the gradual loss of function. 

Medical professionals classify chronic kidney disease into five stages based on disease progression. During stage 1 kidney failure, the kidneys have mild damage and operate as normal. If you have stage 5 kidney disease, the kidneys are very close to not working or have failed completely. You will require dialysis at this stage, which is also known as end-stage kidney disease.

Acute kidney failure can occur when you experience a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, urinary blockage, or infection. You may require an emergency procedure called continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) to remove toxic waste products that may build up in your blood. CRRT is an intensive type of dialysis that often requires around-the-clock treatment. 

The Different Types of Dialysis

Aside from CRRT, there are two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis, which uses a machine to remove blood from your body; and peritoneal dialysis, which occurs internally in your abdomen. 


Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis treatment. During this process, a machine known as a hemodialyzer will take small amounts of blood from your body. The machine will then filter and clean the blood before returning it back to your body.

These treatments can occur at home, in a hospital or doctor’s office, or at a special dialysis center. If you attend dialysis sessions, you will typically require three sessions per week that last three to five hours each. If you opt for at-home dialysis, you will require shorter, more frequent sessions, usually two to three-hour sessions up to six times per week. 

Before you can get hemodialysis, you will need to undergo surgery to create an entrance point into your blood vessels. In most cases, you will receive an arteriovenous (AV) fistula that connects an artery to a vein. After surgery, you will be ready to start hemodialysis within two to three months.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Unlike hemodialysis, no blood leaves your body when you undergo peritoneal dialysis. Instead, this treatment takes advantage of the peritoneum, which is a membrane in your abdomen that helps filter blood. 

During peritoneal dialysis, a fluid called dialysate is placed in your abdomen and absorbs waste products. Once the treatment is complete, the fluid is drained from your belly. Before undergoing this procedure, you will need surgery to implant a catheter into your abdomen. 

Typically, peritoneal dialysis takes a few hours and must occur four to six times per day. However, you can undergo this procedure while awake or asleep. Plus, peritoneal dialysis usually takes place at home, meaning that you do not need to travel to a treatment center.

What are the Potential Risks Associated With Dialysis?Potential Risks Associated with Dialysis

Although dialysis is a life-saving procedure, there are certain risks associated with the treatment. Your medical team will walk you through the potential side effects and help you avoid certain complications, like infections.

The following are some of the risks associated with hemodialysis.

  • Low blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Itching
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle cramping
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heart inflammation
  • Infections like sepsis or bacteremia

Some of the most common risks associated with peritoneal dialysis include the following.

  • Infections in the abdominal cavity
  • Weakening of the abdominal muscles
  • Weight gain
  • High blood sugar
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever

Which Type of Dialysis Is Right for Me?

Different dialysis methods work best for different patients. If you have kidney disease, your medical team will help you identify which option works for you.

Typically, in-center hemodialysis is best for people who do not have the support or space to perform at-home treatments. This procedure also works for people who prefer in-person appointments or need a healthcare professional’s support.

On the other hand, peritoneal dialysis and at-home hemodialysis are best for patients who have support at home and do not want to worry about scheduling or attending appointments. Additionally, peritoneal dialysis can help people who have difficulty following a meal plan, which hemodialysis typically requires.

Is Dialysis a Temporary Treatment?

Once you need dialysis, you will likely require treatments for the rest of your life. End-stage renal disease is incurable, meaning that your kidneys will not regain function. Dialysis will take the place of your kidneys unless you receive a kidney transplant.

If you have acute kidney failure, you will only require dialysis until your kidneys regain function. After you receive treatment, your kidneys may return to normal, and you can stop dialysis. However, complications can occur.

What Causes Kidney Failure?

Kidney failure can impact your life in several ways. There are several factors that contribute to this condition, including genetics, high blood pressure, and lifestyle choices like smoking and obesity. In some cases, dangerous and defective medications can lead to kidney injury.

Several medications have been linked to kidney failure, including Truvada, a popular pre-exposure prophylaxis drug. Now, former patients are filing lawsuits against the manufacturers of these drugs, holding these entities accountable for their losses.

If you develop kidney disease after taking a medication like Truvada, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. By filing a claim, you can recover the compensation you need to pay for dialysis and other forms of treatment. As soon as possible following your diagnosis, speak to a defective medication attorney to discuss your next steps.