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What is hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is a procedure to remove chemicals, wastes, and extra fluid from your blood. Hemodialysis does the job of your kidneys when they cannot, such as in chronic kidney failure. A machine takes blood from your artery and pumps it through a dialyzer. The dialyzer removes chemicals, waste, and extra fluid from your blood. Once they are removed, clean blood from the dialyzer returns to your body through a vein. You may need hemodialysis for the rest of your life.

What needs to be done before hemodialysis?

Your caregiver will ask about your medical history and examine you. You may need blood and urine tests. You may need surgery to make an arteriovenous fistula (AVF). An AVF connects an artery directly to a vein. You may also need surgery to place an arteriovenous graft (AVG) in your arm. An AVG is an artificial tube that connects an artery directly to a vein. The AVF and AVG act as bridges for blood to go from your body to the hemodialysis machine, and back to your body.

How often do I need hemodialysis?

You and your caregiver will work together to pick the right hemodialysis schedule:

  • The usual hemodialysis schedule has 3 sessions each week. Each session lasts 4 to 6 hours. The sessions are usually done in a hospital or hemodialysis center.
  • Short daily hemodialysis has 6 sessions each week. Each session lasts 2 to 3 hours. The sessions may be done in a hospital, hemodialysis center, or your home.
  • Daily nocturnal hemodialysis has 6 sessions each week. Each session lasts 8 to 10 hours. This may be done in a hospital, a hemodialysis center, or in your home. The sessions are done at night, while you sleep.

Where do I have hemodialysis?

You can choose to have hemodialysis at a hospital, hemodialysis center, or possibly in your own home. You will need the right training and proper equipment to do hemodialysis in your home. You will have to check yourself before, during, and after hemodialysis. You will also need to know how to respond to alarms from the hemodialysis machine. You will need to know what to do if you are not feeling well, and when to call your caregiver for help. Your caregiver will make sure you are well prepared before he lets you do hemodialysis at home.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have a fever.
  • You do not feel a buzzing sensation in your fistula or graft. The buzzing sensation means that it is working.
  • You have chills, a 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.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • The skin around your fistula or graft is painful, hot, red, or swollen.
  • You are urinating little or not at all.
  • You cannot eat or drink because you are vomiting.
  • Your fingers are blue or pale, or they feel cool to the touch.
  • You are breathing fast or have a fast heartbeat.
  • You are confused, dizzy, or lightheaded.
  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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