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What Does Dialysis Do?
06-15-2008, 12:48 PM
Post: #1
What Does Dialysis Do?
Dialysis does what kidneys no longer can

One of the greatest fears is fear of the unknown. Much of medicine is outside the average person's daily experience. When approaching treatments and procedures, such as surgery, chemotherapy or, as in this case, dialysis, a patient experiences significant anxiety and fear because of what is not known.

Quote:Dialysis is our attempt to replace the normal function of the human kidneys. Normal kidneys process about 2,000 liters of blood per day. The organs extract from blood the excess water and the waste products of normal metabolism. One of the primary waste products is urea, a nitrogen-based chemical that is toxic in high concentrations. Kidneys also control blood levels of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and chloride. They secrete hormones that control normal blood production and blood pressure and are critical in normal calcium metabolism.

When kidney function falls below about 15 percent of the normal level, it is only a matter of time before individuals succumb to the toxic effects of this failure. Dialysis is a means of washing the blood clean of toxins. Two types are available to patients: peritoneal and hemodialysis.

In peritoneal dialysis a special fluid is run into the abdominal cavity. It is left in for several hours and draws out waste products. The fluid is then drawn off and discarded.

Hemodialysis is what most people mean when they refer to dialysis. In this technique blood is passed through a machine that removes toxins and replaces necessary elements. Most people begin dialysis using a temporary set of catheters (tubes) inserted into a vein, through which blood can be withdrawn and then returned after cleansing. When permanent dialysis is contemplated, surgery is done to directly connect an artery to a vein in the arm, either by an artificial tube (shunt) or a direct connection (fistula) allowing for better access for the dialysis. During dialysis, needles are inserted into the shunt or vein to retrieve and return the blood.

Most kidney-failure patients undergo dialysis three days per week, and the process takes about four hours. As Dr. Ruth Meneses-Taylor, a kidney specialist, puts it, "You give up 12 hours a week in order to live a normal life the rest of the time."

Beyond being pricked with a needle, dialysis is not a painful process. Most patients read or watch television. They can eat. Some take a nap. After dialysis, you can go about your normal activities immediately without any restrictions.

Normal kidney function is a complex process, and dialysis is not a perfect substitute. Some of the adverse consequences of kidney failure, such as accelerated hardening of the arteries, are not reversed by dialysis. The best scenario for appropriate patients with kidney failure is to receive a successful kidney transplant. The transplanted kidney assumes the normal functions of the patient's own kidneys. Of course, kidney transplants have their own challenges. One concern is the patient's lifelong need to take anti-rejection drugs. In addition, the transplant requires major surgery, and doctors must decide whether potential candidates can withstand the operation.

Dialysis is a lifesaving procedure. Its benefits far outweigh the negative aspects. Patients can lead productive, active and long lives on dialysis.

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