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In medicine, dialysis is a process for removing waste and excess water from the blood, and is primarily used to provide an artificial replacement for lost kidney function in people with renal failure. Dialysis may be used for those with an acute disturbance in kidney function (acute kidney injury, previously acute renal failure) or for those with progressive but chronically worsening kidney function–a state known as chronic kidney disease stage 5 (previously chronic renal failure or end-stage kidney disease).
The kidneys have important roles in maintaining health. When healthy, the kidneys maintain the body's internal equilibrium of water and minerals (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfate). Those acidic metabolism end products that the body cannot get rid of via respiration are also excreted through the kidneys. The kidneys also function as a part of the endocrine system producing erythropoietin and calcitriol. Erythropoietin is involved in the production of red blood cells and calcitriol plays a role in bone formation. Dialysis is an imperfect treatment to replace kidney function because it does not correct the endocrine functions of the kidney. Dialysis treatments replace some of these functions through diffusion.
There are two types of dialysis:
Haemodialysis is the type of dialysis that most people are aware of. It involves inserting a needle, which is attached by a tube to a dialysis machine, into a blood vessel.
Blood is transferred from your body into the machine, which filters out waste products and excess fluids. The filtered blood is then passed back into your body.
Most people require three sessions a week, each lasting four hours.
Peritoneal dialysis is a less well known type of dialysis, but it's becoming more common. It involves using the peritoneum as a filter.
The peritoneum is a thin membrane that lines the inside of the abdomen and surrounds and supports the abdominal organs, such as the stomach and liver. Like the kidneys, the peritoneum contains thousands of tiny blood vessels, making it useful as a filtering device.
During peritoneal dialysis, a small flexible tube, known as a catheter, is attached to an incision in your abdomen. A special fluid called dialysis fluid is pumped into the space that surrounds your peritoneum (the peritoneal cavity).
As blood moves through the peritoneum, waste products and excess fluid are moved out of the blood and into the dialysis fluid. The dialysis fluid is then drained from the cavity.
The process of peritoneal dialysis lasts roughly 30 to 40 minutes and is repeated around four times a day. Alternatively, you can run it overnight.
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National Kidney Foundation - http://www.kidney.org/
National Kidney Federation - http://www.kidney.org.uk/