Dialysis is used to treat patients whose kidneys have lost more than 85% function. One way to think about kidney function is to imagine it is a pie with eight slices. Normal people have at least seven slices of pie until late in life. Dialysis patients have at most one slice and usually less. Dialysis does not restore function to the kidneys but instead it replaces enough of the vital functions to allow patients to live for many years. There are 2 kinds of dialysis: Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis.
Hemodialysis is performed by passing the patient’s blood across a dialysis membrane and filtering out fluid and toxins in a way that is similar to the action of the kidneys. It can be performed in a center or at home. The most common format is on a three-day per week schedule for four hours per treatment. Home dialysis sometimes is performed with shorter treatments more frequently.
Peritoneal dialysis is performed using the patient’s own internal abdominal lining as a dialysis membrane. This lining, called the peritoneum, functions well to filter fluid and toxins. This form of dialysis is performed at home by the patient or with the help of a caregiver. The patient and caregiver go through training supported by specially trained nurses and followed by one of the RCMG Nephrologists. In patient’s who have undergone multiple surgeries or had serious infections such as peritonitis from a ruptured appendix in the past, it may not be a good option because the membrane can become scarred. However, for many patients, peritoneal dialysis offers freedom and a better quality of life than hemodialysis.
At Renal Consultants Medical Group, we stress to patients that each of the dialysis modalities has their own advantages and disadvantages. You and your nephrologist will make a decision of which is right for you depending on your medical conditions and lifestyle.