Your kidneys filter harmful waste products and excess fluids from your body. When they aren’t working properly, waste accumulates, causing unpleasant symptoms, and even death.

Dialysis can help remove this waste and excess fluid when your kidneys stop working properly. This painless procedure diverts your blood to a machine where it is purified. Although it’s an effective treatment, it cannot fully replace all your kidney’s functions.

The two main types of dialysis are haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both are equally effective. A doctor may give you the choice of which one you prefer.

How Long Do You Need Dialysis For?

The length of dialysis treatment depends on the functioning of your kidneys. If you have a condition that causes temporary kidney failure, you will probably only need treatment until your kidneys are functioning again.

In other instances, treatment may be extensive. Permanent kidney failure usually requires a kidney transplant. However, wait times for donor organs can be long. Dialysis can support kidney function before a donor kidney becomes available. If you don’t qualify for a transplant, you may need to remain on dialysis indefinitely.


Haemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis used by patients. A tube is attached to a needle in your arm. Blood from your kidneys passes along the tube and into an external machine, which purifies your blood before it is passed back into your arm along another tube.

This type of dialysis usually occurs at a dialysis centre in a hospital or clinic, but it can also be done at home. Your doctor may require you to have the procedure three days a week with each session lasting around four hours. If you are completing treatment at home, you may require more frequent or longer sessions such as four four-hour sessions a week or five three-hour sessions.

One of the benefits of this type of dialysis is that you may have up to four treatment-free days a week.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis uses your peritoneum (inside lining of your abdomen) to filter blood and fluids from your kidneys, rather than a machine. The peritoneum contains many tiny blood vessels, which can filter waste from fluid.

This kind of dialysis is done by inserting a catheter (tube) into your peritoneal cavity (the space inside your abdomen). It is left in place permanently. Fluid is then pumped through the catheter. As blood passes through the peritoneum, waste products and excess fluid are expelled into a dialysis fluid.

This fluid is filtered and changed four times a day. This can take around 30 to 40 minutes for each change. This can also be done by a machine at night while you sleep.

One of the main benefits of this type of dialysis is that you can do it at home. However, you may need the procedure every day.

Living With Dialysis

Dialysis can positively affect your physical and mental wellbeing. You can still have a good quality of life if you stick to your treatment regimen and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Many patients carry on working while receiving dialysis treatment. Some work full-time, while others prefer working part-time or on a flexible schedule. A physically demanding job that includes heavy lifting or strenuous labour is not recommended while receiving dialysis.

All domestic or international travel plans should be discussed with your doctor. Generally, travel is possible for people with dialysis, although their trips will need to be carefully arranged in line with their dialysis schedule. If you’re on peritoneal dialysis, you should seek assistance with the transfer of your supplies. If you’re on haemodialysis, you should make advance arrangements to visit a local dialysis centre, making plans at least thirty days before you plan to travel.

Life expectancy varies depending on your overall health and how well you follow your dialysis treatment plan. The average life expectancy for dialysis patients is five to ten years, but many live with dialysis as long as 20 or 30 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are on dialysis, the leading cause of death is cardiovascular disease, followed by sepsis (infection)

The most common side effect is low blood pressure (hypotension), accompanied by nausea and dizziness. This is caused by a drop in fluid levels during the procedure.

No, dialysis cannot cure kidney failure, but it can improve your life expectancy and wellbeing

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