Dialysis is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys. It is needed when your own kidneys can no longer take care of your body’s needs. Dialysis is required when a patient develops end-stage kidney failure, which is usually by the time you lose about 85% or so of your kidney function.
Like healthy kidneys, dialysis keeps your body in balance. Dialysis removes waste, alt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body. It also keeps a safe level of certain chemicals in your blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate. Plus, dialysis helps to control your blood pressure.
For hemodialysis, an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer) is used to remove waste and extra chemicals and fluid from your blood. To get your blood into the artificial kidney, the doctor needs to make an access or entrance (via a graft) into your blood vessels and can be accomplished with minor surgery to the arm or leg.
Dialysis at Mee is done in an outpatient dialysis center setting. The time required for your dialysis depends on:
- how well your kidneys work
- how much fluid weight you gain between treatments
- how much waste you have in your body
- your weight and height proportions
- the type of artificial kidney used
Usually each hemodialysis treatment lasts about 4 hours and is done 3 times per week.
Dialysis does some of the work of healthy kidneys, but does not cure your kidney disease. You will need to have dialysis treatments for your whole life unless and until you get a kidney transplant.
At Mee Memorial Hospital, we try to make our patients as comfortable as possible even when needles are put into your fistula or graft, but most patients have no problems. The dialysis treatment itself is painless. Some patients, however, do experience a drop in their blood pressure, so if this happens, you may feel sick to your stomach, vomit, have a headache or cramps. With frequent treatments, those problems usually disappear.
Many patients live normal lies except for the time needed for treatments. Dialysis usually makes patients feel better because it helps many of the problems caused by kidney failure. You and your family will need time to get used to dialysis – and Mee is here to help!
For more information about kidney disease and options, contact the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/.