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Hemodialysis for Acute Kidney Failure

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


What do I need to know about hemodialysis for acute kidney failure:

Hemodialysis is a procedure that uses a machine to do the job of your kidneys. The machine pumps your blood through a dialyzer, or artificial kidney. The dialyzer filters fluid, salts, and waste from your blood. Once they are removed, clean blood from the dialyzer returns to your body through a vein. Acute kidney failure happens when your kidneys suddenly stop working. Failure happens quickly, within hours or days.

What needs to be done before hemodialysis:

Your weight, temperature, pulse, and blood pressure will be checked. A central venous catheter will be placed into a vein in your arm, chest, or groin. The catheter will be hooked up to the machine and dialysis will start.

What happens after hemodialysis:

You may need to rest in the hospital so your healthcare provider can monitor your condition. You may need more hemodialysis sessions. People who get regular dialysis usually have it 3 times each week in a hemodialysis center. If you need long-term dialysis, you may need surgery to make an arteriovenous fistula or arteriovenous graft. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about an arteriovenous fistula or graft.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • You are breathing fast or have a fast heartbeat.
  • You feel confused, dizzy, or lightheaded.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • The skin around your fistula or graft is painful, hot, red, or swollen.
  • You cannot eat or drink because you are vomiting.
  • Your fingers are blue or pale, or they feel cool to the touch.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You do not feel a buzzing sensation in your fistula or graft.
  • You have chills, cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your skin itches or you have a rash.
  • You cannot make it to your follow-up or dialysis visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may help prevent anemia (low level of red blood cells). Take vitamins as directed by your healthcare provider.


Your healthcare provider will tell you what changes you need to make to the foods you eat. A dietitian can help you plan meals.

  • Eat foods as directed. You may need extra calories or protein. Limit potassium, phosphorus, and sodium (salt). Talk to your healthcare provider or dietitian for help or more information about nutrition.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Keep a record of how much liquid you drink each day. Count ice cubes, soup, gravy, gelatin, and popsicles. Limit caffeine.
  • Keep your mouth moist. Suck on hard candy or lemon wedges, or chew gum.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.