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For Patients & Families: Dialysis and Treatment

dialysis and treatment

about dialysis

overview and introduction

When a patient's kidneys are in a state of failure, they require some form of medical treatment to help their body complete the work their own kidneys can not perform on their own. Dialysis is a common treatment option for such patients.


When a patient is treated using dialysis, a machine is used to perform some of the functions normally managed by a healthy kidney. This machine cleans and filters a patient's blood, removes extra fluid, and clears away the body's excess waste and build up.


There are two types of dialysis: 


  • Hemodialysis (HD). A treatment in which blood is removed from the body and filtered through a machine to remove waste, toxins and fluids.

  • Peritoneal Dialysis (PF). A treatment in which your blood is cleaned inside your body. In PD, patients undergo a small surgery to have a soft plastic tube called a catheter placed into the abdomen (belly). The catheter makes it possible for a patient to easily connect to a special tubing, which allows PD treatments to be performed. During the treatment, a fluid called dialysate is put into the belly through a permanent catheter.  The fluid is left inside the body for a period of time, pulling waste through the belly lining.  Then, the fluid and the waste are removed through the catheter, and disposed of.


types of dialysis

learn how treatment works

Peritoneal Dialysis

In peritoneal dialysis, your blood is cleaned inside your body. A doctor places a soft plastic tube called a catheter into your (belly) to make an access. During the treatment, your abdominal area (the peritoneal cavity) is slowly filled with dialysate through the catheter. The blood stays in the arteries and veins that line your peritoneal cavity, and extra fluid and waste products are drawn out of your blood and into the dialysate.


There are two major kinds of peritoneal dialysis:


Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD). Is the only type of PD that is done without machines. You do this yourself, usually four or five times a day at home and/or at work. You put a bag of dialysate (about two quarts) into your peritoneal cavity through the catheter. The dialysate stays there for about four or five hours before it is drained back into the bag and thrown away.


Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (APD). Is usually done at home using a special machine called a cycler. This is similar to CAPD except that a number of cycles (exchanges) occur. Each cycle usually lasts 1.5 hours and exchanges are done overnight, while you sleep.

In 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 (entrance) into your blood vessels. This is done by minor surgery, usually to your arm (though it can also be done with the leg).


The dialyzer, or filter, has two parts, one for your blood and one for a washing fluid called dialysate. A thin membrane separates these two parts. Blood cells, protein and other important fluids remain in your blood because they are too big to pass through the membrane. Smaller waste products in the blood, such as urea, creatinine, potassium and extra fluid pass through the membrane and are washed away.


Hemodialysis can be done in a hospital, in a dialysis center that is not part of a hospital, or at home. You and your doctor will decide which place is best, based on your medical condition, and your wishes.

find a dialysis clinic

search your area for a nearby loaction


Medicare has data you can use to compare dialysis facilities (centers) based on the quality of patient care they provide. You can also compare their patient experience survey results..

Dialysis Finder: By DaVita 

The most comprehensive online dialysis center directory - DaVita has mapped every dialysis center found in the US and has associates available to field phone calls, and answer questions.

Find a Clinic


dialysis: fast facts

Fast Facts

transplant / donor resources

In addition to dialysis, receiving a kidney transplant is an excellent treatment option for combatting kidney disease and kidney failure. Please explore the links below to learn more about kidney transplantation.

NKFI kidney health resources

The information shared on this website has been reviewed by staff at the New York City headquarters of the National Kidney Foundation. Please note: material contained here are intended solely for reference. This material does not constitute medical advice; it is intended for informational purposes only. If you feel you need professional medical care, please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

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