Dialysis 101: What to Know Before Starting Treatment

Normally, your kidneys work to filter out the excess waste and fluid in your blood. This excess waste and fluid is then removed through your urine. However, in end-stage renal disease (ESRD), your kidneys can fail, requiring outside medical intervention in order to filter your blood and prevent the buildup of waste and toxins in your bloodstream. 

Luckily, dialysis can be a life-saving treatment for people with end-stage renal disease. Here at Houston Kidney Specialists Center, with four locations throughout Houston and Cypress, Texas, our team of expert nephrologists is dedicated to helping patients with kidney disease manage their condition and improve their outcomes. If you’re set to start dialysis soon, here’s what you need to know before you begin your treatments. 

The basics of dialysis

Dialysis is a treatment that removes waste products, excess fluids, and other potentially harmful substances from the blood. Normally, this is done by our kidneys. However, in cases of end-stage renal disease where your kidneys no longer filter your blood, dialysis can help, often by diverting the blood to a machine for cleaning. 

Dialysis is usually required after kidney failure. Sometimes kidney failure is a temporary issue, and dialysis can be used until the kidneys recover. However, sometimes dialysis is needed for long-term treatment, such as when a patient is waiting for a kidney transplant. 

The two primary types of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.


In hemodialysis, a tube is inserted into the arm. Blood is diverted to an external machine to be cleaned, filtered, and returned to the body. 

The procedure can be done at home or in a medical setting. At our comfortable clinics here in Houston and Cypress, Texas, we usually suggest patients have dialysis treatments for four hours, three times a week. During your in-center dialysis treatment, you can sit in a comfortable chair before being connected to a dialysis machine with a port or fistula in your arm. 

If in-center dialysis is inappropriate for any reason, we also offer three techniques for home hemodialysis:

Peritoneal dialysis

Your kidneys work by using thousands of tiny blood vessels that facilitate waste transfer out of your blood system and into your urine. Your abdominal lining, or peritoneum, also has thousands of small blood vessels, so it can also be used as a filtration method. 

In peritoneal dialysis, a tube is inserted through an incision in the belly. This is placed permanently in the space in your abdomen, known as the peritoneal cavity. Special dialysis fluid is pumped into the cavity. 

As blood passes through the peritoneal cavity, waste products and excess fluid are passed into the dialysis fluid. After a few hours, the fluid is drained into an external bag and new fluid is put in. This process, which you do at home, can be automated or done manually, and is repeated a number of times throughout the day and night depending on the method you use.

What to expect after dialysis

No matter what type of dialysis you choose, it may lead to lower levels of energy due to the strain the process can place on your body. However, many patients are able to continue working, driving, walking, swimming, and exercising. 

Additionally, dialysis can cause a number of side effects, such as itchiness, muscle cramps, and fatigue. You may also experience an increased risk of a hernia, weight gain, or bacterial infection of the peritoneum during peritoneal dialysis. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease or kidney failure, learn more about your dialysis options by calling Houston Kidney Specialists Center at 281-429-8780 or by booking an appointment online.

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