Medical Reviewing Editor:

Dialysis facts

  • Kidney dialysis is a procedure that is a substitute for many of the normal functions of the kidneys.
  • Dialysis allows patients with kidney failure a chance to live productive lives.
  • There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
  • Each type of dialysis has advantages and disadvantages. Patients can often choose the type of long term dialysis that best matches their needs.

What is dialysis?

The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood. Dialysis is a procedure that is a substitute for many of the normal functions of the kidneys. The kidneys are two organs located on either side in the back of the abdominal cavity. Dialysis can allow individuals to live productive and useful lives, even though their kidneys no longer work adequately. Statistics from 2010 showed approximately 414,000 patients were receiving dialysis in the United States. More than an additional 179,000 patients had a functioning kidney transplant for end stage renal disease.

Dialysis helps the body by performing the functions of failed kidneys. The kidney has many roles. An essential job of the kidney is to regulate the body's fluid balance. It does this by adjusting the amount of urine that is excreted on a daily basis. On hot days, the body sweats more. Thus, less water needs to be excreted through the kidneys. On cold days, the body sweats less. Thus, urine output needs to be greater in order to maintain the proper balance within the body. It is the kidney's job to regulate fluid balance by adjusting urine output.

Another major duty of the kidney is to remove the waste products that the body produces throughout the day. As the body functions, cells use energy. The operation of the cells produces waste products that must be removed from the body. When these waste products are not removed adequately, they build up in the body. An elevation of waste products, as measured in the blood, is called "azotemia." When waste products accumulate they, cause a sick feeling throughout the body called "uremia."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2015

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Hemodialysis: Treatment for Kidney Failure

How Hemodialysis Works

In hemodialysis, your blood is allowed to flow, a few ounces at a time, through 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.