Dialysis is needed when the kidneys stop working properly (kidney failure). This can happen for many different reasons.

What does dialysis do?

Dialysis does the job that is normally done by the kidneys – it removes waste products from the blood and any extra water from the body.

There are two types of dialysis

Haemodialysis filters out (cleans) waste by passing blood through an artificial kidney machine (a dialyzer). Once the blood is clean, the machine sends it back to the person through another tube. It takes about four hours and needs to be done three times a week. It is usually done in hospital but sometimes people are trained so that they can do it at home.

Peritoneal dialysis is when a catheter is inserted into the abdomen. It uses the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) to filter (clean) blood.

In peritoneal dialysis, your abdomen is filled with a fluid called dialysate. Waste passes into the fluid in your tummy, which is then drained and exchanged for fresh dialysate. This process of filling and draining happens several times in a row and can be done during the night when you are sleeping (APD) or during the day (CAPD).

Peritoneal dialysis can be done almost anywhere so you don’t always need to go to hospital.

Does it hurt?

Dialysis shouldn’t hurt you but you might find it uncomfortable at the beginning. For the first few weeks of peritoneal dialysis, you might feel a slight stinging sensation when the fluid goes into your abdomen.

Last reviewed: November 2011

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital