How Does Dialysis Work?

Learning that you or a loved one is experiencing vital organ failure and is in need of life-saving medical treatment like dialysis is terrifying. The future seems unclear and trusting a process you don’t fully understand can be difficult. Being informed and educated allows one to make the best medical decision for yourself and your family.  

Here’s what you need to know about dialysis:

Understanding Kidney Failure 

Your kidneys vital to your body’s ability to properly function. Their primary functions include helping to rid the body of toxins and regulating the body’s fluids. Specifically, the kidneys: 

  • Maintain fluid balance within the body 
  • Regulate and filter minerals from blood 
  • Filter waste from food, medications, and toxic substances 
  • Assist in the production of red blood cells, promote bone health, and regulate blood pressure 

The kidneys are also incredibly sensitive. Excess salt in the diet, dehydration, certain medications, and other seemly minor factors can lead to serious kidney issues. Certain health conditions also affect the kidneys, such as: 

  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Blood disorders 
  • Vascular and pulmonary disorders
  • Allergic reactions 
  • Sepsis or other severe infections 
  • Family history of kidney disease 

When kidneys are not functioning properly or fail completely, it can cause serious health issues, primarily related to infections or build-up of toxins and minerals in the body. Kidney failure is a serious medical condition requiring immediate medical attention. 

Signs of kidney failure can include: 

  • Weakness and fatigue 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • General swelling 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Hyperkalemia, high levels of Potassium in the blood
  • Arrythmia 
  • Uremia, high levels of urea in the blood
  • Congestive heart failure 

How Does Dialysis Work? 

Dialysis is a procedure by which toxins and waste are removed from the blood through ultrafiltration and diffusion. While it is not a cure for renal failure, dialysis is an intermediary treatment that can be used while waiting for a kidney replacement or alternative solution.  

There are three common types of dialysis: hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT). 

Hemodialysis, the most common form of dialysis, uses an artificial kidney to clean the blood and perform other renal functions. In order to do this, a surgeon must create a dialysis access port, usually an Arteriovenous (AV) fistula or AV graft. The blood is then drawn from the body, passed through the artificial kidney and returning to the body. Waste and excess fluids are then sent to the bladder to be passed from the body. Treatment typically takes between three and five hours and is performed three times per week. Shorter, more frequent sessions may also be advised, depending on the specifics of the case. 

Peritoneal dialysis involves the implantation of a peritoneal dialysis catheter into the abdomen, which helps to filter blood through the peritoneum, a membrane in the abdomen. During treatment, a fluid called dialysate flows through the membrane, drawing waste from the bloodstream to then be drained from the abdomen. Peritoneal dialysis must be performed up to six times per day but can be done while awake or asleep, depending on the method.  

Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy, or CRRT, is typically used in intensive care units for acute renal failure. Tubing attached to a dialysis machine is used to retrieve blood, which is then filtered to remove waste products and water. The blood then returns to the body along with replacement fluid. This procedure is usually performed on a daily basis for 12 to 24 hours a day. 

Dialysis Access Management 

As a medical procedure used to keep the body free of toxins and waste, it’s important that dialysis is performed correctly and all medical advice is followed. This includes monitoring and maintaining the vascular system’s health, which can be compromised during treatment. Dialysis access management in Miami Beach includes fistulogram to monitor the function of an AV fistula or graft. The procedure uses a contrast dye injection to examine the blood flow.  

If a decreased blood flow is detected, your vascular specialist may perform an angioplasty to open veins up and promote blood flow. For blood vessels which are too weak for angioplasty or if angioplasty is unaffecting, stents may be used to support an open structure. 

For more information about how Palm Vascular can help you maintain your health during dialysis treatment, contact us today! 

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