A dialysis center, also known as a nephrology center, provides dialysis and other treatments for kidney failure (renal failure). Dialysis centers or clinics are located in freestanding facilities and on hospital campuses.
Dialysis centers are staffed by nephrologists (doctors who specialize in the kidneys), registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), and other healthcare personnel who are specially trained to provide dialysis and care for people with kidney failure and advanced kidney disease.
Healthy kidneys function to filter (clean) your blood by removing excess fluid, minerals and waste that your body produces as it breaks down food and consumes energy. The waste and extra fluid turn into urine.
Your kidneys also make hormones for strong bones and healthy blood. When your kidneys do not work properly, harmful wastes build up in your body; you retain excess fluid and your blood pressure rises; and you may not make enough red blood cells.
A special diet, medications, fluid limits, and other support treatments are known to help with kidney disease, but dialysis is required to replace the essential function of your kidneys. Dialysis serves to dialyze, or separate, the waste and extra salts and water from your blood.
Dialysis centers provide treatment and prevention measures for people with kidney failure and its complications, including high potassium in the blood (hyperkalemia) and fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Treatments and services typically include the following:
- Hemodialysis cleans and filters your blood using a dialysis machine. Hemodialysis removes harmful wastes and extra salt and water from the body. Hemodialysis is most often done in a dialysis center, but home hemodialysis is an option for some people. If you have home hemodialysis, you will still visit a dialysis center about once a month for checkups and other services.
- Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your abdomen and special dialysis solution to collect harmful wastes and extra salt and water from the body. After several hours, the used solution is drained from the abdomen through a tube and the cycle is repeated with fresh solution. Peritoneal dialysis is generally performed at home, but you will still visit a dialysis center about once a month for checkups and other services.
- Diet and nutrition services reduce the risk of fluid retention and swelling and nutritional imbalances. For example, a person with kidney failure has to eat foods that are low in protein, sodium and potassium so that the kidneys don't have to work as hard.
- Supportive services including patient education, exercise, and counseling programs help people with kidney failure live as fully and normally as possible.
If you need hemodialysis, you will spend a great deal of time at a dialysis center. Hemodialysis typically involves treatments three days a week for about four hours per treatment or overnight for six to eight hours while you sleep. Accommodations for your comfort and schedule vary between different dialysis centers.
Some dialysis centers are more flexible than others are and may schedule treatments around your job and other obligations. Some centers have internet access and cable TV, which helps you and your visitors pass time or allows you to work during treatments.