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UC Davis Transplant Center

UC Davis Transplant Center

Kidney Failure and Treatment Options

Kidney failure can be a gradual process and symptoms may not be seen until the disease is very advanced. Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to remove waste and maintain fluid balance in the body. Without some form of treatment, this would result in death. The two types of treatment for kidney failure are dialysis or transplantation.

There are two different kinds of dialysis: hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. During hemodialysis, tubes connect the patient to a machine that filters the blood. Hemodialysis is usually done three times a week for 3-4 hours each time. It is usually done at a dialysis center, although in some cases families can be trained to do the treatment at home. People on hemodialysis must adhere to a strict diet, restrict their fluid intake and may feel unwell especially after dialysis.

Peritoneal dialysis uses the abdominal cavity membrane called the peritoneal membrane to filter the blood. During this type of dialysis, a tube is placed permanently into the abdomen. During treatment, a fluid called dialysate is infused into the abdominal cavity. Waste and extra fluid move into the dialysate and after a few hours, the fluid is drained out. This is called an exchange. Patients can do 4-5 exchanges per day, or the exchanges may be done at night with the help of a machine that cycles the exchanges while the person is sleeping.

Kidney transplantation is the third option for people with chronic kidney failure. In a kidney transplant, the donated kidney is surgically placed in the lower abdominal area and replaces the function of the natural kidneys. The patient’s own kidneys are usually left in place. The recipient of a kidney transplant must take medicine for the life of the transplanted kidney to prevent rejection. Kidney transplant recipients must also
follow strict schedules for lab testing and doctor visits.
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