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How does hemodialysis work?

Hemodialysis is a treatment that replaces the work of your own kidneys to clear wastes and extra fluid from your blood. This is done using a special filter called a dialyzer. Your blood travels through plastic tubing to the dialyzer, where it is cleaned and then returned to your body.

To get your blood into the dialyzer, the doctor needs to make an access, or entrance, into your blood vessels. This is done with minor surgery, usually to your arm. At the beginning of each treatment, two needles are placed into your access. These needles are connected to the plastic tubing that carries your blood to the dialyzer.

Only a small amount of blood remains outside of your body at any given time. The dialysis machine pumps your blood through the dialysis system and controls the treatment time, temperature, fluid removal and pressure.

This basic process is the same for home hemodialysis, except that you and a care partner are trained to do your treatment at home.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.