Treatment Methods for Kidney Failure: Hemodialysis

Dialysis Room Recliners, New York CityHemodialysis is the most common method used to treat advanced and permanent
kidney failure. Since the 1960s, when hemodialysis first became a practical
treatment for kidney failure, we’ve learned much about how to make hemodialysis
treatments more effective and minimize side effects. But even with better
procedures and equipment, hemodialysis is still a complicated and inconvenient
therapy that requires a coordinated effort from your whole health care team,
including your nephrologist, dialysis nurse, dialysis technician, dietitian, and
social worker. But the most important members of your health care team are you
and your family. By learning about your treatment, you can work with your health
care team to give yourself the best possible results, and you can lead a full,
active life.

When Your Kidneys Fail

Healthy kidneys clean your blood by removing excess fluid, minerals, and
wastes. They also make hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood
healthy. When your kidneys fail, harmful wastes build up in your body, your
blood pressure may rise, and your body may retain excess fluid and not make
enough red blood cells. When this happens, you need treatment to replace the
work of your failed kidneys.

How Hemodialysis Works

In hemodialysis, your blood is allowed to flow, a few ounces at a time,
through a machine with a special filter that removes wastes and extra fluids.
The clean blood is then returned to your body. Removing the harmful wastes and
extra salt and fluids helps control your blood pressure and keep the proper
balance of chemicals like potassium and sodium in your body.

One of the biggest adjustments you must make when you start hemodialysis
treatments is following a rigid schedule. Most patients go to a clinic—a
dialysis center—three times a week for 3 to 5 or more hours each visit. For
example, you may be on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule or a
Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule. You may be asked to choose a morning,
afternoon, or evening shift, depending on availability and capacity at the
dialysis unit. Your dialysis center will explain your options for scheduling
regular treatments.