- Take the Kidney Disease Quiz
- Kidney Stones Slideshow Pictures
- High Blood Pressure Slideshow Pictures
- Find a local Nephrologist in your town
- Introduction to Hemodialysis
- When Your Kidneys Fail
- How Hemodialysis Works
- Adjusting to Changes
- Getting Your Vascular Access Ready
- Equipment and Procedures
- Tests to See How Well Your Dialysis Is Working
- Conditions Related to Kidney Failure and Their Treatments
- How Diet Can Help
- Financial Issues
- Hope Through Research
- Resources: Organizations That Can Help
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.
One of the biggest adjustments you must make when you start hemodialysis treatments is following a strict 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.
Researchers are exploring whether shorter daily sessions, or longer sessions performed overnight while the patient sleeps, are more effective in removing wastes. Newer dialysis machines make these alternatives more practical with home dialysis. However, the federal government has not yet established a policy to pay for more than three hemodialysis sessions a week.
Several centers around the country teach people how to perform their own hemodialysis treatments at home. A family member or friend who will be your helper must also take the training, which usually takes at least 4 to 6 weeks. Home dialysis gives you more flexibility in your dialysis schedule. With home hemodialysis, the time for each session and the number of sessions per week may vary, but you must maintain a regular schedule by giving yourself dialysis treatments as often as you would receive them in a dialysis unit.