What is dialysis?
Dialysis is a treatment for kidney failure. Kidney failure, also called renal failure, is a life-threatening condition. Healthy kidneys produce urine by filtering waste from your blood and controlling water levels in the body. Diseases or injury can damage your kidneys so they no longer perform these critical functions. This results in a buildup of waste and fluid in the body. Dialysis substitutes for damaged kidneys by filtering waste products from your blood and regulating the amount of fluid in your body.
Chronic kidney failure occurs over a long period of time and can lead to permanent kidney damage and end-stage kidney failure. Treatment for end-stage kidney failure is life-long dialysis or a kidney transplant. Acute kidney failure occurs suddenly. Acute kidney failure may go away after treating the cause. In this case, dialysis is a temporary treatment until the kidneys heal.
Types of dialysis
There are two general types of dialysis. You should discuss your dialysis options with your doctor to best understand which option is right for you. The types of dialysis include:
- Hemodialysis is a procedure in which your blood flows from your body to a machine called a hemodialyzer. The hemodialyzer removes wastes, extra fluid, and other harmful substances from your blood. It then returns the blood to your body. A specialized hemodialysis team often performs hemodialysis in a hospital or outpatient dialysis center. Some patients are trained to perform hemodialysis in the home.
- Peritoneal dialysis is a procedure that you perform at home. In peritoneal dialysis, you fill the space in your abdomen with a dialyzing solution through a small tube called a catheter. The catheter is surgically implanted in your abdomen and comes out below your belly button. The dialyzing solution draws wastes and extra water out of your blood through the small blood vessels in your abdomen. The solution, wastes, and extra body water then drain out of your abdomen through the catheter into a bag.
There are two types of peritoneal dialysis. Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) is a treatment you perform several times throughout the day without a machine. Ambulatory means that CAPD is adapted for staying mobile. You can take part in various activities with the solution in your abdomen. Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD) is a treatment in which a machine performs multiple cycles of dialysis during the night while you sleep.
Why is dialysis performed?
Dialysis is the treatment for kidney failure. Kidney diseases, injury and other conditions can lead to kidney damage, poor kidney function, and possibly kidney failure. Doctors generally recommend dialysis when you have lost 85% to 90% of your kidney function. Conditions that can lead to kidney failure include:
- Autoimmune diseases that attack the kidneys, such as systemic lupus erythematosus. In an autoimmune disorder, the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues.
- Diabetes, which can damage the kidneys over time if blood sugar is not properly controlled
- High blood pressure, which can damage the kidneys over time when not properly controlled
- Infections, such as repeated bladder, kidney or blood infections
- Kidney cancer, which can damage the kidneys
- Medications, such as intravenous (IV) drug abuse, overdose of certain drugs, or long term-use of certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Nephritis and glomerulonephritis and other diseases that cause kidney inflammation and damage
- Polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disease that causes formation of large cysts in the kidneys
- Reduced blood flow to the kidneys due to shock or renal artery stenosis, which is a narrowing of the renal arteries
- Trauma or injury that affects the kidneys or the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys
- Urinary tract obstruction due to a kidney stone, tumor, congenital deformity, or enlarged prostate gland
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.