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What Is Hemodialysis?

March 31, 2022 In Kidney Failure

The kidneys have an important duty in the human body. These small organs filter waste, salts, and excess fluid from the blood, a necessary process to avoid toxin build-up and serious complications. 

Kidney failure is a serious condition where the kidneys are unable to perform this function.  Thanks to advancements in medicine, however, we have several options available to care for this condition. Hemodialysis is one of the most common ways to treat kidney disease.

How Is Hemodialysis Performed?

Hemodialysis is a procedure where a machine filters waste from the blood, essentially performing the function of the kidneys. Medical professionals use hemodialysis for patients with advanced kidney failure. 

If you are a hemodialysis patient, you can receive this treatment at a dialysis center, hospital, or your home. For in-center hemodialysis, you will typically attend three sessions per week for 3–5 hours each. At-home hemodialysis is usually performed six to seven times per week for 2 hours per session.

When you attend a hemodialysis appointment, you typically expect the procedure to go as follows. 

  • First, the medical staff will clean the skin covering your access site, or the area where the blood will leave and re-enter your body. The staff will also record your weight, temperature, blood pressure, and pulse.
  • Next, the hemodialysis will begin. Staff will insert two needles into your arm through your access site. Two tubes connect the needles to the dialyzer or the machine’s filter.
  • When the process begins, your blood will travel through one tube to the dialyzer a few ounces at a time. Waste and extra fluids are passed from your blood to a cleansing solution called dialysate. Through the other tube, the filtered blood will return to your body.
  • During the hemodialysis session, your medical team will carefully monitor your blood pressure and heart rate. These biomarkers can fluctuate during the procedure as fluid leaves your body.
  • When the hemodialysis is over, staff will remove the needles from your access site and apply a dressing to the puncture wound. They may also record your weight following your session. After removal, you are free to go home.

Are There Any Side Effects of Hemodialysis?

You could experience some discomfort during a hemodialysis session. As the machine pulls excess fluid from your body, you could feel nauseous and experience abdominal cramps. This is especially common if you have retained a lot of fluid since your previous dialysis appointment.

These side effects can be unpleasant. However, you could minimize them by taking certain measures, such as adjusting the speed of the hemodialysis machine. Speak to your medical care team to learn more about managing these symptoms. 

Preparing for a Hemodialysis Appointment

How to Prepare for a Hemodialysis Appointment

Before you attend your first session, you will need to prepare for the treatment. To perform hemodialysis, there needs to be easy access to your bloodstream so that your blood can be safely removed and returned. 

You will need to undergo a surgery to enable this access. There are three types of procedures that you may undergo.

  • AV Fistula: An arteriovenous (AV) fistula is a surgically created connection that links an artery and a vein. This is the preferred type of access site for hemodialysis. To minimize discomfort, your surgeon can place this fistula in the arm that you use less often.
  • AV Graft: For people with small blood vessels, it can be difficult to create an AV fistula. In these situations, your surgeon may use a flexible tube called a graft to create the path between the artery and a vein.
  • Central Nervous Catheter: In cases where you need emergency hemodialysis, surgeons may insert a tube or catheter into your neck. This catheter is temporary until your condition is stable.

Your care team will provide you with aftercare instructions so that you can avoid infection and other complications following the procedure. After your access site heals, you can attend your first hemodialysis session.

Maintaining Your Health between Hemodialysis Sessions

Between dialysis treatments, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and take care of your body. By taking proactive action, you can improve the efficacy of hemodialysis. 

Your medical staff will provide you with specific instructions, but hemodialysis patients typically stick to the following guidelines.

  • Raise Concerns to Your Team: If you have any concerns about your hemodialysis treatments, it is important to communicate with your medical team as soon as possible. These professionals are here to help manage your treatment and can offer solutions to help you deal with any issues.
  • Take Your Medications: Many hemodialysis patients have comorbidities or pre-existing conditions that could aggravate or contribute to their kidney disease. You will need to take your medications regularly and carefully follow your medical team’s instructions.
  • Eat an Approved Diet: A healthy and balanced diet can improve hemodialysis results. Your doctor or dietitian can provide you with a customized meal plan that addresses your kidney disease as well as any comorbidities or pre-existing conditions. In particular, your plan will address your fluid, protein, potassium, sodium, and phosphorous intake.

Is a Defective Medication Responsible for Your Kidney Failure?

Hemodialysis is an invasive treatment option, but if you have kidney failure, it is a necessary and life-saving treatment. This procedure can help you control blood pressure, maintain proper fluid and mineral balance, and carry on with daily activities despite the disease.

Still, kidney failure can impact every aspect of your life. Hemodialysis and other treatment options can be very expensive, often totaling tens of thousands of dollars in annual costs. You may be unable to work during treatment and recovery. It can be difficult to cope with the physical and emotional impact of the disease.

In some cases, hemodialysis patients are eligible for financial compensation through defective medication lawsuits. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs have a history of causing kidney failure in patients, such as the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication Truvada.

If you used to take a medication linked to kidney disease and you later developed this condition, you could qualify for legal action. In these cases, it is important to speak with a lawyer who represents clients in defective drug lawsuits. 

After your diagnosis, contact a Zantac lawsuit attorney to discuss your case and strategize your next steps.