Skip to Content

Hemodialysis Schedules


  • Hemodialysis schedules are sets of dates you and your caregiver plan to have your hemodialysis sessions. Hemodialysis is a procedure that helps clean up your blood because your kidneys are not working properly. Normally, your kidneys remove excess water, and unwanted chemicals and wastes from your blood. You and your caregiver may plan a schedule that works best for you depending on your condition. As your body's condition improves or worsens, your caregiver may adjust the hemodialysis schedule as needed.
  • The right hemodialysis schedule allows you to spend more time with your family. It should not affect your working hours and give you enough time for your usual activities. You may choose to have hemodialysis three times a week, which may last from 4 to 6 hours. You may choose to have hemodialysis six times a week, during the day or while you sleep. To make it easier for you, you may choose to have hemodialysis at home or in a hemodialysis center. For home hemodialysis, you or your partner will need special training so you know how to do this procedure. You may also need to have the plumbing and electrical wires at your home fixed for the hemodialysis machine to work properly. Having and following the right hemodialysis schedule may relieve you of the symptoms of kidney failure.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Erythropoietin: Your kidneys do not make enough erythropoietin with chronic kidney failure. Erythropoietin is a hormone (natural chemical) made by your kidneys that helps your body make red blood cells. Your caregiver may give you a man-made hormone called EPO. It is like erythropoietin and may help prevent anemia (low levels of red blood cells). If you have anemia, not enough oxygen is carried to your body, and you may feel weak and very tired most of the time.
  • Vitamins: You may need to take iron and folic acid medicines to help your body produce enough red blood cells. This should give you more energy. You may also need to take calcium to prevent or treat bone diseases that sometimes happen with kidney failure. Your bones may start to get softer and break easier as calcium leaves your bones and blood.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Arteriovenous fistula or graft care:

  • Clean the skin over the fistula or graft every day with soap and water.
  • Take the bandage off the fistula or graft 4 to 6 hours after dialysis.
  • Check your fistula or graft every day for good blood flow by touching it with your fingertips. The buzzing sensation means that it is working. Check for bleeding, pain, redness, or swelling. These may be signs of infection or a clogged fistula or graft.
  • To prevent damage to the fistula or graft, no one should take your blood pressure or draw blood from the arm with the fistula or graft. Do not wear tight clothes or jewelry or sleep on that arm.

Dialysis diet:

  • You may need to be on a special diet. A caregiver called a dietitian will help you plan what you can and cannot eat. You may need to eat foods that are low in sodium (salt), potassium, and protein. Eat foods that have a lot of fiber in them. Good examples of foods with fiber are cereal, fruits, and vegetables. Some fruits and vegetables are high in potassium. Ask your dietitian which fruits and vegetables you can eat and how much you can eat. It can take time getting used to a new diet. Special cookbooks can help the cook in the family find new recipes.
  • Write down how much liquid you drink every day. Remember to count ice cubes and ice chips. Try to drink only when you are thirsty. Good liquids to drink are water and some juices. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink, such as coffee, tea, and some soda. Ask your dietitian what fluids you can and cannot drink.
  • Sucking on hard candy or chewing gum may help keep your mouth moist without having to drink liquids. Lemon wedges may also help keep your mouth moist.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can damage your brain, heart, and liver. Almost every part of your body can be harmed by alcohol. Drinking alcohol can also make your kidney failure worse.


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


  • You are breathing fast, have a fast heartbeat, or feel confused, dizzy, or lightheaded.
  • You are passing little or no urine at all.
  • You cannot eat or drink because you are vomiting (throwing up).
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing all of a sudden.
  • Your skin around your fistula or graft is painful, feels hot, looks red, or is swollen.
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your fingers below the fistula or graft look blue or pale or feel cool to touch.

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.