What is kidney failure?
How well your kidneys work
is called kidney function. If you have
chronic kidney disease and are not able to control the
disease, your kidney function will continue to get worse. When kidney function
falls below a certain point, it is called
kidney failure. Kidney failure has harmful effects
throughout your body. It can cause serious heart, bone, and brain problems and
make you feel very ill.
When you have kidney failure, either you
need to have dialysis or you will need a new kidney. Some people are good
candidates for kidney transplant. Others are not. Even if you decide to have a
kidney transplant, you will probably need to have dialysis while you wait for a
What are the types of dialysis?
Dialysis is a
process that does the work of healthy kidneys when you have kidney failure.
Dialysis filters wastes, removes extra fluid, and restores the proper balance
of chemicals in the blood.
There are two basic types of dialysis:
hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
- Hemodialysis uses a man-made membrane
called a dialyzer to clean your blood. You are connected to the dialyzer by
tubes attached to your blood vessels. Before hemodialysis treatments can begin,
your doctor will need to create a site where blood can flow in and out of your
body. This is called the
dialysis access. Usually the doctor creates the access
by inserting a small tube (called a shunt or catheter) into blood vessels in
your forearm. An access may be created on a short-term basis through a catheter
inserted in your neck, upper chest, or groin.
- Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of
your belly, which is called the
peritoneal membrane, to filter your blood. Before you
can begin peritoneal dialysis, your doctor will need to place a catheter in
your belly to be the dialysis access.
What should I know about the types of dialysis?
You will need to watch what you eat with both types of dialysis, although
the diets are slightly different. A dietitian will work with you to develop an
eating plan based on the type of dialysis you choose.
No one type
of dialysis is best for everyone. Each type has pros and cons that you will
need to weigh as you make your decision.
Types of dialysis
- Is most often done by trained health professionals who
can watch for any problems.
- Can be used even if you have abdominal problems, such as
adhesions, or active
inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease,
- Allows you to be in contact with other people having
dialysis, which may help provide emotional support.
- Gives you more freedom. It can be done at home or in any
clean place. You may be able to do it while you sleep. You can do it by
- Does not require as many food and fluid restrictions as
hemodialysis, and it does not use needles.
- Does not require the use of
blood thinners, so it may be a better choice if you
have bleeding problems or take medicines that interfere with blood
- Usually needs to be done at a hospital or dialysis center
on a fairly set schedule. It usually is done 3 days a week and takes 3 to 5
hours a day.
- Causes you to feel tired on the day of the
- Can cause problems, including low blood pressure and
blood clots in the dialysis access.
- Increases your risk of bloodstream infections.
- Must be done every day of the week.
- May be hard to manage because of the technical aspects of
- Increases your risk for an infection of the lining of the
If you need more information, see:
- Peritoneal dialysis.
- Chronic Kidney Disease.