Hemodialysis is the most common method used to treat advanced and permanent kidney failure. Since the time hemodialysis first became a practical treatment for kidney failure, much was learned how to make the treatments more effective and minimize side effects. In recent years, more compact and simpler dialysis machines have made dialysis increasingly effective. The treatment of patients with kidney disease requires a coordinated effort from the whole health care team composed of the nephrologists, dialysis nurse, dialysis technician, dietitian, and social worker. The most important member of the health care team is the patient with the family members.
Healthy kidneys clean the blood by removing excess fluid, minerals, and wastes. Kidneys also make hormones that keep bones strong and blood healthy. When kidneys fail, harmful wastes build up in the body which may cause increase in blood pressure, and the body may retain excess fluid and not make enough red blood cells. When this happens, treatment to replace the work of the failed kidneys is needed.
In hemodialysis, the blood is allowed to flow through the blood lines into a special filter that removes and extra fluids. The clean blood is then returned to the body. Removing the harmful wastes and extra salt and fluids helps control blood pressure and keep the proper balance of chemicals like potassium and sodium in the body.
A very important step before starting hemodialysis is preparing a vascular access, a site on the body (the arm) from which the blood is removed and returned. A vascular access should be prepared weeks or months before the start of dialysis. It will allow easier and more efficient removal and replacement of the blood with fewer complications.