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Your Ultimate Guide to Dialysis

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Your Ultimate Guide to Dialysis

Renal Sciences | by Dr. Pankaj Kumar Gupta | Published on 20/09/2023


Has your doctor recommended kidney dialysis? If yes, then you must gain every information that’s related to this procedure. Kidney dialysis is often recommended only when the patient’s kidneys are damaged or failed and the person is experiencing issues when trying to eliminate waste and unwanted water from the blood. Dialysis is one of the technological advancements and artificial methods to carry out the process.

Dialysis is also referred to as renal replacement therapy or RRT as it is an alternative for the natural kidneys. Healthy kidneys can remove waste and enhance the regulation of water levels in the body including minerals. Kidneys also help in the secretion of certain products that are vital for metabolism functioning. 

An individual who has lost more than eight percent of kidney function is recommended to opt for dialysis. These days because of unhealthy lifestyles and hectic work schedules, the number of chronic kidney diseases is increasing at a rapid rate.

In this blog, we will include a comprehensive discussion on kidney dialysis and everything that you must know about the procedure. Please note that the information you will read below is entirely research-based and we don’t appreciate overlooking the doctor’s consultation in any way. If you suspect signs of kidney conditions, you can book your appointment with a nephrologist specialist in Kolkata at The Calcutta Medical Research Institute, one of the best multispeciality hospitals in Kolkata. The healthcare professionals will ensure proper diagnosing and offering treatment that’s suitable for you.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a procedure recommended for people with kidney damage and failure. It helps in removing the waste products from the blood when the kidneys cannot function right. It works as an alternative to kidney function and often diverts blood to a machine for cleaning purposes. According to healthcare professionals, kidneys can filter approximately 120-150 blood quarts daily. When the kidneys are not functioning well, leads to an accumulation of waste in the blood. Sometimes, this can even cause death or coma. The cause in such a case can be severe, long-term, and acute like short-term disease or an injury affecting the kidney's function.

Dialysis ensures preventing the waste products in the blood from reaching dangerous levels. It can help in toxin and drug removal from the blood in a contingency setting.

What are the different types of dialysis?

The two different types of dialysis are:

  • Hemodialysis: It is a machine that assists in removing blood from the patient's body, filtering it through an artificial kidney, and returning the clean blood to the body. The process might take around three to four in the hospital, but it can be performed at home too. At-home treatment should be performed around four to seven times each week for a few hours. It is recommended to do it at night. 
  • Peritoneal dialysis: In this type, tiny blood vessels inside the peritoneum involve filtering blood through the assistance of dialysis solution. It is a kind of cleansing liquid containing water, salt, and other additives. 

When is dialysis recommended?

Chronic kidney failure doesn’t happen overnight and takes time to occur. Normally functioning of the kidney is possible if one kidney is functioning. It might take time before the kidney condition symptoms develop. Symptoms often differ from person to person and sometimes it becomes difficult to diagnose kidney failure. Here are some of the symptoms that raise the need for dialysis:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Tiredness or fatigue 
  • Increased urge for urination
  • Itchiness 
  • Erectile dysfunction 
  • Nausea 
  • Blood and protein in the urine 
  • Water retention leading to swollen hands, ankles, and feet

What happens before the hemodialysis procedure?

The patient has to go through a minor surgery before beginning the hemodialysis as it will help in accessing the bloodstream easily. Here is the minor surgical procedure:

  • An arteriovenous fistula in which a surgeon attaches an artery and vein in the arm. 
  • Arteriovenous graft- If the surgeon finds that the artery and vein cannot be connected due to their short length, the surgeon will involve using a graft for connecting the artery and vein. 

What happens during the hemodialysis procedure?

While the hemodialysis procedure is in process, the machine will:

  • Removing the blood from a needle in the patient’s arm 
  • Circulating the blood through a dialyzer filter, moving waste into a dialysis solution. This cleansing liquid will contain salt, water, and other additives. 
  • Returning the filtered blood throughout the body through another needle in the patient’s arm. 
  • Keeping track of blood pressure to understand how quickly blood is flowing in and out of the patient’s body.

What happens before peritoneal dialysis?

Before the peritoneal dialysis is initiated, the surgeon will perform a minor surgery. It involves inserting a soft and thin tube known as a catheter through the abdomen and into the peritoneum. It is ensured that a catheter is in place. The healthcare personnel will teach the patient how peritoneal dialysis at home and avert infections in the catheter area. 

What happens during peritoneal dialysis?

While peritoneal dialysis is in process, here is what happens during the procedure: 

  • A catheter is connected to a Y-shaped tube branch. It is attached as it contains dialysis solution which flows through the tube and catheter into the peritoneal cavity. 
  • The tube and catheter are disconnected after around ten minutes after the bag is empty. 
  • The process might take around 60-90 minutes meanwhile the person can continue with their regular activities till the time the peritoneal cavity is absorbing the waste and additional fluids from the body. 
  • Once the above step is done, the cap from the catheter is removed, and another Y-shaped tube is used for draining cleaning, and emptying the bag. 
  • The patient is asked to repeat the steps around four times a day. One can sleep with a solution in the abdomen the whole night.

What happens after hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis procedures?

After hemodialysis, some people can experience certain complications such as low blood pressure during or after the procedure. Other complications might involve nausea, dizziness, fainting, headaches, itchy skin, chest pain, back pain, muscle cramps, and restless leg syndrome. 

After peritoneal dialysis, the patient might experience bloating or a feeling of fullness. They will feel discomfort and the abdomen also might be sticking out more than normal as there is fluid in it. 


Dialysis is one of the best lifesaving treatment options for people having kidney failure or damaged kidneys. The patient is put on dialysis for indefinite time, otherwise, the only option is a kidney transplant. Different types of dialysis are discussed above. There are people who might choose to perform dialysis at home, while others choose to stay at the hospital. If you are recommended for dialysis, then your nephrologist will determine the dialysis options with you so that treatment suitable for you can be identified.


Is dialysis painful?

Dialysis is not painful, but there can be a little discomfort, dizziness, and fainting. 

When dialysis is required?

Dialysis is required when more than eight percent of the kidneys have stopped working or when both kidneys are damaged. 

What is peritoneal dialysis?

Peritoneal dialysis is a kidney failure treatment that involves using the abdomen linen and filtering the blood inside the patient’s body.