HEMODIALYSIS DEFINITIONThis procedure is not a medical test, so much as a process designed to substitute for kidney function in patients who have renal failure by cleaning the patient’s blood.
HEMODIALYSIS PURPOSEKidneys are designed to detoxify our bodies through complex diffusion processes. However, these organs can fail. Hemodialysis provides artificial means to clean a person’s blood. Otherwise, he/she will soon die. Some patient need dialysis more frequently than others, but the process is often necessary a few times a week and can take a few hours. It is useful for patients who cannot or will not get a kidney transplant, or are waiting to get one.
HEMODIALYSIS RISKSThe procedure involves processing and cleaning the patient’s blood, and often requires that the patient wear tubes connected to a blood vessel, even when not undergoing dialysis. The patient may, in exposing his/her blood in this manner, become susceptible to sepsis or blood poisoning. He or she might also be allergic to Heparin, a common anticoagulant used in the process.
HEMODIALYSIS PREPARATION REQUIREDDialysis is facilitated by easy access to the circulatory system. A fistula must be prepared, but this often takes several weeks. In cases of emergency dialysis, an entry point can be placed elsewhere, such as the neck, while waiting for the fistula in another vein (often the arm) to mature.
HEMODIALYSIS PROCEDUREThe procedure is different for inpatients and outpatients. In some cases, a person visits a dialysis center regularly, than goes home. In others, the patient is already hospitalized for something, and is also getting dialysis while confined. The patient is hooked up to a dialysis machine, and his/her blood (not all of it at once, of course) is passed through the machine for cleaning. Patients are often told that they can loosen their dietary restrictions during or right before the treatment because their blood will be cleaned anyway.
These are a particular worry when the patient’s general health is poor and/or he/she has other serious ailments. Over the long term, dialysis increases the likelihood of weakening one’s heart and nerves. This may be partially addressed by getting longer and more frequent dialysis treatments.
HEMODIALYSIS SIDE EFFECTSThe patient may also feel weak often and lose a great deal of weight quickly. He/she may develop low blood pressure, nausea, and various aches and pains because fluid was drained too quickly. This can be ameliorated by having the patient take in less fluid between treatments.
HEMODIALYSIS RESULTSPatients will have cleaner blood. The process can also extend life for those with renal failure, but the amount of time “added” varies from a few years to decades.