What is dialysis?

Dialysis is a medical treatment for patients whose kidneys have failed that performs the functions the kidneys normally would. Your kidneys perform a critical function, filtering wastes and excess fluid from your body so the rest of your organs and tissues stay as healthy as possible. When you develop end stage kidney failure and your kidneys are only able to perform at 10 to 15% of their normal function, dialysis can help keep your body in balance by:

  • Removing waste, extra water, and salt from your blood
  • Maintaining a safe level of certain chemicals in your blood
  • Helping to manage your blood pressure

What happens during dialysis?

Before dialysis can begin, you first need to have a minor surgery to create an access site to your blood vessels. Before each session, your blood pressure and weight will be measured and recorded and the skin at the access site will be carefully cleansed. During dialysis itself, a tech places two needles into your arm at the access point. These needles are connected to tubes that are attached to a dialysis machine, called a dialyzer. The dialyzer then slowly draws out your blood from the first needle and sends it through a filter within the machine that acts like a kidney, filtering out the waste, extra fluid, and salt. The cleaned blood is then sent back into your body through the second needle.

Your blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored during treatment to ensure the process is proceeding smoothly. When your treatment is complete, the needles will be removed and a pressure bandage will be placed over the site to prevent bleeding. Your weight may be measured before you leave the office, and then you can go back to your normal activities. Each dialysis session takes from three to five hours, and most people have treatment about two to three times per week.

Are there any side effects to dialysis?

Dialysis itself is painless, but some people experience a drop in blood pressure, nausea, or abdominal cramping as fluids are removed from the body. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should let the care team know and they can adjust your treatment to help alleviate them. These problems can also go away naturally over time.

Learn more about dialysis and the treatments and services we offer.

At Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group, providing top-quality, compassionate care is our #1 priority. We know that understanding your condition and picking the right treatment option can be tough. That’s why our doctors work closely with each patient to help them understand their care options and what dialysis might look like for them so they can feel comfortable and confident every step of the way.