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Dialysis: Types, processes and side effects

  • Posted on- Aug 06, 2015
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When the kidneys become weak and are unable to function properly, thereby failing to filter toxic waste from the body, dialysis may be required. This is a medical procedure which mimics the function of the kidneys. The dialysis machine acts as an external kidney and helps purify the blood and flush out harmful chemicals and toxins from the body.

Due to many reasons, kidneys may get affected and fail to perform their function. This situation can be life-threatening in nature which may also prove to be fatal in some cases. To avoid this, the individual may have to undergo dialysis. Based on the medical condition and circumstances of the patient, the type of dialysis to be administered can be determined.

Types and Process of Dialysis

Dialysis is a medical procedure which the person (whose kidneys have ceased to function) has to undergo in order to eliminate harmful by-products from the body. Though the main function is the purification of blood in the body, there are two kinds of kidney dialysis processes. The type is based on the severity of the kidney disease and also on the requirement of the patient. These medical processes may be carried out in the in-patient or out-patient department. Sometimes, in special cases where the patient cannot be shifted to a hospital, the dialysis can also be administered at home with a help of a relative who has been given proper instructions by a nephrologist.

  1. Haemodialysis: In haemodialysis, a needle, similar to that of an IV is inserted into the blood vessel. Normally, there are two needles that are used in this process. One needle carries the impure blood from the body to the machine and the other brings back filtered blood in the body. Haemodialysis is of different types, based on the requirement of the individual. The physician may chalk out the appropriate one for the patient, based on the severity of the kidney disease. For the in-centre dialysis, the patient may be required to visit a hospital or dialysis centre for about 3 times per week. This may take up to 5 hours for completion per day. Once the patient is familiar with the process, he can avail home dialysis, where the dialysis is carried out at home with the assistance of a trained person, particularly a relative. This day haemodialysis takes about 3 hours for every session. There is also another type of haemodialysis which can be done at night. Nocturnal home haemodialysis can be done overnight while the patient sleeps for about 3 to 7 nights per week. The duration of each session can last for up to 8 hours.
  2. Peritoneal Dialysis: As the name suggests, in peritoneal dialysis the equipment is attached to the peritoneum or the membrane in the stomach. Patients suffering from intense chronic kidney failure undergo this dialysis. This is a lesser known procedure, which is becoming common these days. The peritoneum or the stomach membrane is used like a filtering device for unwanted albumin, electrolytes, glucose, urea etc. This may be performed at night when the patient sleeps or during the day. The stipulated time taken for completion of peritoneal dialysis can be anywhere between 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD): Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis is the kind which involves the draining of the dialysis solution in the abdomen, and is undertaken without the use of machine. The individual undergoing CAPD is free to move around and can even have it while sleeping. The solution, along with the wastes is eliminated from the body after a gap of 4 to 6 hours. There can be a couple of sittings, which may be determined by the nephrologist. Normally, a person may have to take three or four fluid exchanges in a day and one exchange while sleeping. Another type of peritoneal dialysis, which is the continuous cycler-assisted peritoneal dialysis (CCPD), is typically carried out with the help of a small machine. Also referred to as automated peritoneal dialysis (APD), this dialysis has controlled timing for the exchange of the fluid to take place. This is usually done at night, where there may be up to five exchanges. Daytime, there is one sitting which may last for the full day.

Side Effects of Dialysis

There are also some negative effects of dialysis on the body. These few side effects may occur in both haemodialysis as well as peritoneal dialysis. These may arise when the body remains attached to the dialysis equipment for a prolonged period of time.
  • One of the most common effects seen on patients of both haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis is fatigue. This condition can mainly arise as a long term effect of the treatment on the body. Combined with dietary restrictions, loss of normal kidney function, anxiety and stress associated with the treatment, all this can take a toll on the body and person may appear to be fatigued almost all the time.
  • Muscle cramps, especially in the lower part of the body, may also be experienced by patients of dialysis. This is due to the fact that there is considerable fluid loss during the process, which may affect the muscles causing them to become weak and prone to cramps.
  • Excessive accumulation of potassium can trigger itching sensation and irritation in the skin of individuals receiving dialysis, especially haemodialysis. This may become intense, if potassium keeps getting deposited in the body. One of the best ways to avoid this problem is reduce the intake of potassium in the diet.
  • Hernia is also a common complaint in patients receiving dialysis. Persons under peritoneal dialysis are at a greater risk, since the fluid build-up in the abdomen may put a strain on the muscles, thereby weakening them. The weak muscles are more prone to organs pushing through them, and formation of lumps in the peritoneal cavity.

Dialysis has proven to be a boon for patients whose kidneys do not function properly. The type and duration for dialysis will be determined by the nephrologist after analyzing the health of the patient.


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12-01-2018 10:47 AM

My kidneys had stopped working and I have to go through dialysis on a regular basis. This is a very useful process for the kidney patients.

user profile image
09-11-2016 08:14 AM

I was on dialysis for almost 8 years before getting my transplant. Then, I had my kidney transplant done. The results are impressive.

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