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A doctor points to a dialysis machine.

How Dialysis Works in Patients With Kidney Failure

Posted in: Blogs , English

According to the National Kidney Foundation, chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects about 37 million people in the U.S. alone, and about 90% of those don’t even know they have it. The only cure for stage 5 CKD is a kidney transplant, but before that, many people receive ongoing treatment through dialysis, a simple procedure that performs the functions of a healthy kidney.  

The Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease 

If you receive a CKD diagnosis, your nephrologist will work to determine what stage you are currently experiencing. There are five stages, with stage 1 meaning your kidneys are functioning at about 90-100% of their normal capacity due to some kidney damage and stage 5 meaning your kidneys are functioning at less than 15%. Stage 5 CKD is also known as kidney failure. To determine what stage of CKD you are currently in, your doctor will take a blood sample and measure the amount of creatinine in your blood and factor in your age, body size, and gender. 

What Is Dialysis?  

The kidneys are responsible for filtering excess fluids, salt, and waste products from the blood. When someone has kidney failure, their kidneys can’t remove these items efficiently, causing them to build up in the body. 

“Dialysis is a treatment option for those with significant kidney failure, and the process of dialysis is to replace many functions of normal kidneys,” said Dr. Jingyin Yan, nephrologist at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.

While there are different types of dialysis, all of them begin with a doctor creating an access port in the body through which your blood can travel into an artificial kidney or dialysate (a liquid that absorbs the waste products) can enter the body. 

Common Types of Dialysis 

There are two main types of dialysis: 

  • Hemodialysis (HD). This form of dialysis typically occurs in a hospital or an outpatient dialysis center but can also happen at home. You go in for this procedure about three times a week, and it lasts for about four hours. While there, a medical professional will use an access point in your arm, leg, or neck and connect it to a device that functions as an artificial kidney. It slowly removes blood from the body, runs it through a filter, and then returns it. 
  • Peritoneal Dialysis (PD). This type of dialysis typically occurs at home and happens several times a day. Before a patient can begin PD, their doctor places a catheter into the abdomen. Using this entrance, patients can insert dialysate, a cleansing fluid, into their abdominal cavity. The dialysate uses the peritoneum, the abdominal lining, to filter waste products from the blood. After a set period, the person drains the fluid into a bag and disposes of it properly. 

Every month, our nephrology team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center performs over 800 inpatient dialysis treatments. We offer all dialysis procedures, including continuous filtering therapies. As a U.S. News & World Report High Performing Hospital in nephrology for 2019-2020, our team can provide the support you need in any stage of CKD.

If you notice signs of kidney disease, such as cramps, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, blood in the urine, or swelling, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for evaluation and diagnosis. 

If you have chronic kidney disease, request a consultation with a St. Luke’s Health nephrologist to learn about your treatment options, including your eligibility for transplantation. Our Kidney Transplant Program is dedicated to providing the highest level of patient care and expanding the frontiers of research in nephrology. 

National Kidney Foundation | Dialysis
National Kidney Foundation | Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR)
American Kidney Fund | Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
National Kidney Foundation | KIDNEY DISEASE: THE BASICS
MedicineNet | What are the types of dialysis? How do they work?

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