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Dialysis

What Is Dialysis?

Dialysis (dye-AL-ih-sis) is a medical treatment that can take over the job of cleaning the blood when the kidneys can't.

Why Do People Need Dialysis?

The kidneys are fist-sized organs shaped like kidney beans. Their main job is to clean the blood. They take out extra water and waste (things the body doesn't need). These leave the body as pee (urine).

If the kidneys don't work as they should, waste quickly builds up in the body and makes a person sick. When the kidneys stop removing enough waste and extra water from the blood, the person has kidney failure. Then, the person needs dialysis to clean the blood because the kidneys can't.

Does Dialysis Cure Kidney Failure?

Dialysis does the work of the kidneys to clean the blood, but it doesn't fix or cure kidney failure.

Some kids with sudden or acute kidney failure need dialysis for a short time until the kidneys get better. But if chronic kidney disease turns into kidney failure, the child's kidneys will not get better. These kids need dialysis for life, unless they get a kidney transplant.

What Are the Types of Dialysis?

There are two types of dialysis:

  1. Hemodialysis (hee-moh-dye-AL-ih-sis): An artificial filter cleans the blood outside of the body. It's usually done in a special clinic called a dialysis center.
  2. Peritoneal dialysis (pair-eh-tih-NEEL dye-AL-ih-sis): This uses the lining of the belly as a filter. Often, it can be done at home.

Both types of dialysis clean the blood, but in different ways. People who need dialysis work with their care team to decide on the best method.

Looking Ahead

Except for special diets and the time needed for treatments, people getting dialysis usually live normal lives. Most of the time, they can go to school, take part in most sports and activities, go to prom, or just go out with friends as they usually would. Dialysis can be inconvenient, but it doesn't have to slow you down.

Reviewed by: Joshua J. Zaritsky, MD, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2020