The kidneys are a pair of organs, each about the size of a fist, located on either side of your spine. They’re responsible for purifying your blood by removing waste and excess fluid from your body. When the kidneys don’t work properly, dialysis is used to perform the function of the kidneys.
Dialysis is an artificial way of cleaning your blood. There are two different types of dialysis:
Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis. It uses an artificial kidney, known as a hemodialyzer, to remove waste and chemicals from your blood. To get the blood to flow to the artificial kidney, your doctor will surgically create a vascular access, or an entrance point, into your blood vessels. This vascular access will allow a larger amount of blood to flow through your body during hemodialysis treatment. This means more blood can be filtered and purified.
The two type of vascular access designed for long-term dialysis treatments are an arteriovenous (AV) fistula, which connects an artery and a vein and an AV graft, which is a looped tube. For short-term use, a catheter may be inserted into the large vein in your neck.
Hemodialysis treatments usually last three to five hours. The treatment is typically needed three times per week. However, hemodialysis treatment can also be done in shorter, more frequent sessions.
Most hemodialysis treatments are done at a hospital, doctor's office, or dialysis center. The length of treatment depends on your body size and the amount of waste in your body.
After you’ve been on hemodialysis for an extended amount of time, your doctor may feel that you're ready to give yourself dialysis treatments at home. This option is more common for people who will need long-term treatment.
Peritoneal dialysis involves surgery to implant a catheter into your belly area. During treatment, a special fluid called dialysate flows into your abdomen. Once the dialysate draws waste out of the bloodstream, it’s drained from your abdomen.
There are numerous different types of peritoneal dialysis, but the main ones are continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis and continuous cycler-assisted peritoneal dialysis. In continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, your abdomen is filled and drained multiple times each day. Continuous cycler-assisted peritoneal dialysis, however, uses a machine to cycle the fluid in and out of your abdomen. It’s usually done at night while you sleep.