Dialysis ยท Artificial Kidney

The Basics

Hemodialysis is a common treatment option for advanced and permanent kidney failure. It involves removing blood from the body and using a machine (dialyzer) to filter harmful wastes from it, which would normally be performed by healthy kidneys. The filtered blood is then returned to the body.

People with chronic kidney disease often start hemodialysis after experiencing a gradual loss of kidney function. You and your doctor should discuss whether hemodialysis is an appropriate treatment option for you.

People who require hemodialysis must have it regularly. You may wish to discuss with your doctor about a specific schedule that would best suit your needs.

An example of a dialysis machine.
An example of a dialysis machine.

Risks and precautions

Hemodialysis is usually a straightforward and safe procedure. However, there are some risks of complications or side effects, including:

  • air bubble in the blood
  • anemia
  • blood clot
  • infection at the site of where blood leaves and re-enters your body
  • itchy skin
  • low blood pressure
  • cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache
  • sleep disturbances

It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the procedure, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.

Some people may experience complications or side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you after your procedure.

Before the procedure

It is important that you fully understand what the procedure involves beforehand. Ask your doctor to explain the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of the procedure, and don't be shy to probe further until you are comfortable with your doctor's responses.

Before you can begin your first treatment, your doctor will create an access point (also called a dialysis access) for blood flow in and out of your body. There are various types of access for hemodialysis, including arteriovenous (AV) fistula, AV graft, and central venous catheter.

You and your doctor will decide which one is best for you based on a number of factors, such as how soon and how long you will need hemodialysis treatment. Some people may only need hemodialysis for a short time, although most people with kidney failure will require hemodialysis for the rest of their lives.

If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the procedure. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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