The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that can be found on each side of the spine just below the rib cage. They are responsible for removing the extra fluid, chemicals, and waste that accumulates in the blood while it moves through the body. This waste is then flushed from the body in the urine. Without this cleaning of the blood, a person will eventually die.
When your kidneys stop working properly, called kidney failure, a patient needs dialysis to remove the impurities in the blood manually. Hemodialysis uses a machine to filter the blood when your kidneys are no longer healthy enough to do this important job. At Summit Healthcare, we offer inpatient dialysis.
What Is Dialysis?
Who Needs Dialysis?
If you have chronic kidney disease, which doctors characterize as your kidneys not working well for at least three months, you’ll need dialysis or a kidney transplant at some point. As your kidney function continues to deteriorate, lab tests will begin to show toxic levels of waste in your blood. At this point, symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, swelling, and vomiting, will begin to show themselves. Your quality of life will begin to be adversely affected.
A test called an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) will measure your level of kidney function. Your eGFR is calculated using your blood creatinine test results, sex, age, and other parameters. Your eGFR numbers will help you plan your treatment, including when you’ll need to start dialysis.
What Causes Kidney Failure?
Diabetes (types 1 and 2) and high blood pressure are most often behind kidney disease. High blood sugar levels can harm the kidneys, while high blood pressure harms the blood vessels, including those that go to the kidneys. Your kidneys may also shut down suddenly after a severe illness, complicated surgery, heart attack, or other serious health problem. This is known as acute kidney failure.
Benefits of Dialysis
When your kidneys can’t remove the waste, extra fluids, and other impurities accumulating in your body, dialysis can keep your body running as close to normal as possible. Dialysis isn’t a cure for kidney disease; it simply is a substitute for the kidneys.
How Does Inpatient Dialysis Work?
At Summit Healthcare, we provide inpatient dialysis. Hemodialysis uses an artificial kidney, known as a hemodialyzer, in place of your malfunctioning kidneys. The hemodialyzer is basically a filtration system that removes the waste, fluids, and chemicals from your blood.
Before you can use a hemodialyzer, we need to create an entrance point into a blood vessel. We use two types of vascular access for long-term dialysis treatments. An arteriovenous (AV) fistula connects an artery and a vein under the skin in your arm. This is usually done in your non-dominant arm and it takes about six weeks to heal before it can be used for hemodialysis. After that, an AV fistula can be used for years.
An arteriovenous graft, or AV graft, uses a plastic tube to join and artery and a vein under your skin. An AV graft heals in around two weeks, so you can have dialysis faster, but it won’t last as long as a fistula. The risk of infection is also greater with an AV graft.
If you need dialysis very quickly, a catheter can be placed into a neck vein, below the collarbone, or next to your groin. This entry is only meant to be used for a short time.
What to Expect During Dialysis Treatment
During hemodialysis at Summit Healthcare, you’ll sit or lie back in a chair. A tech will place two needles in your arm at the fistula or graft. A pump in the hemodialysis machine slowly draws out your blood, and then sends it through another machine called a dialyzer. This functions like your kidney, filtering our extra salt, waste, and fluid. The now-clean blood is then sent back into your body through the second needle in your arm.
Inpatient dialysis at Summit Healthcare takes from 3 to 5 hours per session. Patients usually need these treatments three times each week.
How Long Will I Need to Receive Dialysis?
What to Expect After Dialysis Treatment
Dialysis enables patients to live a pretty normal life. Once a month you’ll receive these tests to ensure your hemodialysis is removing enough of the wastes from your blood:
- Blood tests to measure urea reduction ratio and total urea clearance to see how well the wastes are being removed
- Blood chemistry evaluation and assessment of blood counts
- Measurements of the flow of blood through your access points during dialysis
At Summit Healthcare, we’ll also help you eat right between your dialysis sessions. A dietician will help you develop a meal plan based on your personal preferences, weight, remaining kidney function, and other medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Side Effects of Dialysis
Low blood pressure is the most common risk with dialysis. These are the main risks:
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramping
- Difficulty sleeping
- High blood potassium levels
- Inflammation of the membrane around the heart
Long-term dialysis can also lead to other conditions, such as amyloidosis. This disease occurs when amyloid proteins produced in bone marrow build up in the kidneys, liver, heart, and other organs. This will usually lead to joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.