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How does dialysis treat kidney disease?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Dialysis is an effective treatment for advanced kidney disease that fulfills the function of failing kidneys by filtering waste and excess fluid out of the blood. There are two kinds of dialysis: peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis. In peritoneal dialysis, a solution that collects waste in the bloodstream is pumped into the abdomen and circulates for a few hours. After a few hours the solution will be full of waste and is drained out of the body through a catheter. A new bag of fluid replaces the old one, and the process starts over again.

Peritoneal dialysis can be performed without the assistance of a doctor as you go about your daily business or as you sleep at night. On average, you'll have to change the bag four times in a day, or you if you do it overnight, the bag can drain and fill automatically.

The other kind of dialysis, called hemodialysis, involves your blood pumping out of your body, through a filter called a dialyzer, and back into your body. The dialyzer catches waste, excess water, and excess salt in your bloodstream.

Hemodialysis is often done in a clinic three times a week for three or four hours, but it can be done five to seven times a week at home for a shorter amount of time or even overnight. Research continues about which methods are the best treatment.

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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.