What is Dialysis? | Procedure, Types, and Precautions

Dialysis carries out the functioning of a healthy kidney. It is recommended for people with a damaged kidney or one who is has had kidney failure. Many a time people think that dialysis patients do not have the energy and time to work like any other normal person; the truth is several dialysis patients resume to their work-life and performs day to day activity. It is also important to remember to have a word with your doctor and dialysis care team about the status of your health and how much workload your body can take post-dialysis. For more convenience and better care, you can consider getting dialysis at home.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is related to the functioning of the kidneys. As we know, the kidney functions by removing excess fluid/waste from our body; in the process filtering the blood. The waste generated is sent to the bladder which is passed out as urine.

The moment the kidney gives up, dialysis steps in to perform its function. In dialysis treatment, the blood is filtered and purified with the help of a machine. In this manner, the electrolytes and fluids in the body are maintained in a balanced ratio.

The first dialysis treatment was done in the 1940s to cure people with a kidney disorder. Dialysis offers some people with an extended life when there is a delay or no matching donor in the current moment, in other words, it provides support to the body functions and an appropriate time to carry out a kidney transplant.

Why is dialysis done?

Dialysis is performed when a person reaches the end stage of kidney failure, a healthy kidney stops excess water, impurities and other waste from building up in the body. Not just that, it also keeps the blood pressure under control along with the levels of chemical elements (sodium, potassium) present in the blood. The kidney produces a form of vitamin D that helps in the absorption of calcium.

All such functions come to stand still when there is damage in the kidney due to injury or disease. In such a condition if dialysis is not performed, the waste and salts will gather in the blood. This accumulated waste will then attack the body by forming a poison and start damaging all other healthy organs. Dialysis cannot be regarded as a solution to treat a kidney but it is definitely a step ahead to cure it.

Types of dialysis

There are three different types of dialysis-

  • Hemodialysis

In this process, an artificial kidney is used which is also known as hemodialyzer to remove the impurities and unwanted fluids from the blood. Blood is taken from the body and then processed, filtered through the artificial kidney. After purification, the blood is transferred back to the body with the help of a dialysis machine

The surgeon performs a surgery to make an entrance into the blood. The entrance can be created in three ways-

  • AV graft – A looped tube is used to make the passage
  • Vascular access catheter – insertion is done in the large vein in the neck
  • Arteriovenous(AV) fistula – a connection is formed between the artery and a vein and is one of the commonly preferred types.

Hemodialysis treatment lasts for 5 hours and is carried out 3 times per week. The duration of the treatment entirely depends on the amount of waste present in the body, the body-size and the health condition of the patient. In case a person requires dialysis for a longer period he/she can opt to take treatment at home too.

  • Peritoneal dialysis

An implant-peritoneal dialysis (PD) catheter is placed in the abdomen by surgery in peritoneal dialysis. The catheter filters the blood through the membrane present in the abdomen (peritoneum). A fluid called dialysate is entered into the system which collects the waste and then the dialysate is drained out of the abdomen. A few types of peritoneal dialysis are intermittent peritoneal dialysis, continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD), and continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)

  • Continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT)

It is a gradual process and continuous blood purification process in which a machine passes the blood through tubing; the waste is collected by the help of a filter. The processed blood is then transferred to the body with replacement fluid. Continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) is generally performed every day and is applicable for people suffering from acute kidney failure.

Preparations before dialysis

Before getting a dialysis a patient must be prepared both mentally and physically. Try to follow a few things that will help to take dialysis smoothly-

  • Talk to people and discuss your condition

Discuss the treatment and cures with your doctor and family members, help them understand how you feel, your condition and the things that are disturbing you. Getting emotional support at such a time brings great strength and help to prepare better for dialysis.

  • Learn from people who have had a dialysis

One of the best thing to do before undergoing treatment is to consult and learn from people who have already faced alike medical conditions and treatments. Doing so will give you a clear understanding of what needs to be done and whatnot.

A treatment brings along with it a wide range of expenses. Some health insurance policies help you cover them but many a time they are not added in their policy. In such a situation don’t panic thinking, “I won’t be able to get the treatment”, instead lookout for options available. LetsMD brings to you health loan with easy and 0% EMI. Not just that LetsMD promises to help you instantly without any delay by delivering the loan at the earliest. Remember ‘delay is dangerous’, get treated soon, letsMD will help you with all the expenses. Apply now.

  • Arrange a timetable

Getting dialysis while staying in the job can become hectic for you and may drain you both physically and mentally; discuss with your employer about how things can be arranged and made better as per the convenience of both parties. It is very important to see that your health is in a more or less stable condition to avoid further complications.

  • Take care of your kidney health

Take medicine on time, maintain a diet that is nutrient-rich and consult with your doctor about your health condition as this will keep your health in check. Add green vegetables like cauliflower, onions, cabbage, red bell pepper and fruits such as apples, cranberries, blueberries; doing so will keep your body away from experiencing more inflammation or the risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, track your lab reports and organize your time so that there is no negligence.

Procedure of dialysis

Most patients are recommended to take 3 sessions of hemodialysis in a week. Each session is known to last for approximately 4 hours and it can be done at the hospital and home.

At first 2 needles are inserted into the graft/AV fistula and taped. One of the needles slowly removes blood and transfers it into the dialysis machine. The blood goes through a series of membranes that filters it; the dialysis machine contains a special fluid called dialysate.

The purified blood is then transferred into the body through the second needle. During this entire process, the patient can relax and sit back on a couch or bed while listening to music. Sometimes a patient might feel a bit dizzy, or muscle cramps during dialysis. This can be caused due to the rapid and instant changes in blood flow level that occur during the procedure.

Risks and complications of dialysis

Dialysis is known to be a painless procedure in maximum cases but few risk and complications might show up during dialysis-

  • Itchy skin and muscle cramps
  • Peritonitis-infection in the thin membrane that surrounds the abdomen
  • Low blood pressure that might cause dizziness or nausea
  • Sepsis-blood poisoning
  • Anxiety issues
  • Pain in the joints and bone
  • Difficulties in sleeping
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Constipation

Precautions post-dialysis

Post dialysis one must strictly follow the instructions of the doctor. Regulate the amount of liquid, if the patient consumes too much of fluid then the dialysis machine will not be able to remove the excess liquid in 4 hours. If not maintained this can lead to serious complication leading to build up excess fluid in your tissue, blood, and lungs.

The quantity of liquid a patient is allowed depends on their body weight and size. The average amount that is allowed is 1000 to 1500ml of liquid per day. Avoid eating potassium and phosphorous rich food; also keep a check in the amount of salt being consumed. Pregnancy in dialysis can be dangerous for both the child and the mother; therefore it is important to consult with your doctor as a patient can have the chances of a successful pregnancy while on dialysis.

Several people think that “Dialysis is expensive and unaffordable for a normal patient”. It must be noted that the federal government pays 80% of the dialysis cost for most patient. Even if you’re not covered in this plan LetsMD will help you without any fail. Get a medical loan within 24 hours* and keep away the worries about money for any medical condition.


Que1. How long can you live on dialysis?

Ans- The life expectancy on dialysis is 5-10 years.

Que2. Is it painful to have dialysis?

Ans- Dialysis alone doesn’t hurt but in the hemodialysis, procedure needle can hurt, the patient can ask for numbing medicine before the needle is inserted.

Que3. Do dialysis patients sleep a lot?

Ans- Dialysis can hugely affect the patient sleep pattern and result in sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome

Que4. Can you do dialysis 2 days a week?

Ans- Yes, at times it can be 3 days a week on an alternate basis

Que5. Should I eat before dialysis?

Ans- Yes, it is advised to eat before or after dialysis as eating or drinking during dialysis can cause a problem.

Que6. Is there an alternative to dialysis?

Ans- Researchers have created a nanofiber mesh which is said to be a wearable and cheaper alternative to kidney dialysis

Que7. What colour is urine when your kidneys are failing?

Ans- When kidneys are failing the colour of the urine changes to dark-coloured urine and the person may urine less than the regular amount.

Que8. What can I eat for breakfast with kidney diseases?

Ans- You can include scrambled eggs, oatmeal or French toast with egg white, and fruits like apple, blueberries, and cranberries to your breakfast.


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