What is haemodialysis?
To understand haemodialysis it is important to first understand how the kidneys work.
How do the kidneys work?
The human body has two kidneys, which are located at the lowest level of the rib cage and on either side of the spine. Each of them is roughly 11-13 centimetres long and 7.5 centimetres wide, roughly the size of a fist, and is the shape of a bean.
The main job of the kidneys is to serve as a filter for your blood, removing wastes. The kidneys filter roughly 200 litres of blood every day. In addition to filtering blood, your kidneys regulate and control blood pressure by managing the amount of fluid inside your body and blood vessels. The kidneys also play a role in keeping your bones healthy, controlling the chemicals in your body, and making red blood cells.
When your kidneys fail, they will not be able to perform these tasks. Adults, the elderly, and even children can have kidney disease. Some people develop kidney disease from congenital birth defects, or genetic diseases. Others can develop kidney disease from high blood pressure, diabetes, or glomerulonephritis, a type of inflammation of the kidneys.
If there is permanent damage to your kidneys it is called Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). While it’s possible for your kidneys to work if there is some damage, if the damage continues to worsen, CKD can lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
If you have been diagnosed with ESRD, the kidneys have stopped working well enough to filter your blood without dialysis treatments or a transplant.
What is haemodialysis?
Haemodialysis is a type of treatment for people who have ESRD or kidney failure. It performs the role of healthy kidneys by filtering your blood.
The most common form of haemodialysis is performed 3 times a week, for approximately 4 hours per session at either a dialysis centre or hospital. This therapy is known as traditional in-centre or intermittent dialysis.
However, because there are 2 to 3 days in between treatments, intermittent dialysis can lead to large fluctuations in body weight due to water retention, accumulation of wastes, and electrolyte imbalances.
More frequent dialysis reduces these wide fluctuations by keeping the amount of toxin and water build-up to a minimum, which makes the treatment shorter and may reduce or eliminate many side effects that patients experience. Performing dialysis more often than 3 times a week is closer to how healthy kidneys work.