Kidney Dialysis: A Major Treatment Options for Kidney Failure
Ever since it was introduced, dialysis has been considered a major treatment option for kidney failures. Whether it’s acute kidney failure or a chronic kidney failure, when other options have been tried and failed, the doctors can still save lives using dialysis and kidney transplantation.
While kidney transplantation is a complicated surgery and depends upon the availability of a healthy replacement kidney, the dialysis offers a much easier procedure that replicates and bypasses the defective kidney(s).
The Dialysis can be your long-term treatment strategy or it may be used for your survival before you undergo kidney transplantation. There are some dialysis procedures that can be performed at home either with the help of a nurse or independently by the patient.
Nature has given us two kidneys but we can also survive with one good kidney. A lot of people are born with one kidney; many lose a kidney due to disease or accident and live on. However, for some reasons, if that kidney also develops some problem, it poses great threats to our lives.
What is dialysis?
Dialysis is a treatment procedure that replicates our kidney functions artificially. If we are diagnosed with severe kidney failure, dialysis can save our lives by keeping our body in balance by:
- Removing waste, salt and extra water from the blood,
- Keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in our blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate, and
- Helping to control blood pressure.
There are two types of dialysis:
This is the most commonly used type of dialysis that uses an artificial kidney(hemodializer) placed outside the body to remove waste and extra fluid from the blood. The blood is taken out of the body and passed through the hemodializer for cleaning and filtering. The filtered blood is then returned into the body.
Hemodialysis is usually done three times a week for a duration of about three to four hours or longer each session.
A minor surgery is done usually on your arm or leg to get access into the blood vessels. Alternatively, access to blood flow is made by joining an artery to a vein under the skin of an arm to make a bigger blood vessel called a fistula.
In this process the blood is filtered inside the body using a special cleansing fluid, put into your abdomen through a catheter. The waste from the blood that passes through the small blood vessels in the abdominal cavity(also called the peritoneal cavity) are absorbed by the fluid, before it is drained out of the body. Peritoneal dialysis can be of different kinds, but the two methods that are used more often than not are:
- Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD) - Performed without using any machine.
- Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (APD) - Performed using a special machine called a cycler.
When is dialysis required?
Your doctors will test your kidney performances to make sure if dialysis would be necessary. Dialysis is generally opted for if it’s an end stage kidney failure - when hardly 10-15% of your kidney functions are happening with a GFR level below 15 ( GFR for normal people range from 90 -120 ).
Your lab tests show increasing toxic level in your blood that forces you to display symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath.
- Generalized swelling (edema)
- Generalized weakness due to anemia.
- Loss of appetite.
During the dialysis treatment usually there is no pain but a little discomfort when the needles are put into the blood vessels or fistula. However, for some patients there can be a drop in blood pressure with some minor side effects such as stomach sickness, vomiting, headache, or cramps. With frequent treatment, these problems disappear.
Life expectancy on dialysis varies from person to person, depending on your other medical conditions and regularity in your treatment plan. Average life expectancy on dialysis is 5-10 years, however, many patients are known to have lived well on dialysis for 20 or even 30 years.