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Choosing the Dialysis Treatment Option That’s Right for You


When your kidneys fail, your body needs a new way to continue filtering your blood and taking care of other kidney-related functions. This is typically accomplished in one of two ways—a kidney transplant or dialysis.

A Kidney transplant is considered as the most effective treatment option for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and is the closest to a natural kidney.

Download our free guide to getting a kidney transplant for more information

If a transplant is not part of your immediate or long-term treatment plan, dialysis is another form of treatment that can help your body simulate normal kidney function. Because there are different types of dialysis therapy, it is important to know about your options.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a treatment for kidney failure that can help your body continue doing the work your kidneys once did—filter unwanted toxins, waste products, and excess fluids from your blood and keep your system chemically balanced. Dialysis takes the place of some kidney function and, along with medication and proper care, can help you live well and feel your best. For people seeking a kidney transplant, dialysis is also a way to keep your body as healthy as possible in preparation.

Understanding the Two Types of Dialysis

If your doctor prescribes dialysis, it’s important to understand the different treatment options available to you, and the benefits of each one. There are two major types of dialysis—hemodialysis (HD) and peritoneal dialysis (PD). It’s important to choose the dialysis therapy option that’s right for you, your family, and your lifestyle.

Peritoneal Dialysis

With PD a cleansing solution called dialysate is sent through a PD catheter to your peritoneal (abdominal) cavity, where it absorbs waste and toxins from blood vessels in the peritoneum, and is then drained back out and discarded.

  • PD performed with a machine is called automated PD (APD) and is administered at night, while you sleep.
  • With continuous ambulatory PD (CAPD), you fill your abdomen with dialysate, let it remain there for a prescribed dwell time, then drain the fluid. Gravity moves the fluid through the catheter and into and out of your abdomen.

Either method can be done in a clean, enclosed environment—at home, at work, or even while traveling.


Hemodialysis filters your blood using a dialysis machine. Once you’re connected to the machine using your dialysis access site, your blood passes through a dialyzer (artificial kidney) where filtration and removal of excess fluid occurs before your blood is returned to your body. With guidance from your doctor, you can choose either:

  • Home hemodialysis (HHD): Performed in the comfort of your own home, either on your own or with the help of a care partner, as prescribed. Treatments are done three to six times per week, depending on your prescription and schedule.
  • In-center hemodialysis: Administered at a dialysis center by a trained team of nurses and technicians. Treatments are usually three times per week for about four hours, based on prescription.

How Long Will I Need Dialysis?

After kidney failure, you need dialysis to replace normal kidney function until another therapy, such as kidney transplant, becomes possible. After a successful transplant, your donated kidney(s) should begin to perform these functions, and dialysis may be discontinued as directed by your doctor.

Talk to Your Doctor About Your Dialysis Choices

Together, you and your doctor can decide which dialysis treatment option best fits your lifestyle and needs. Ideally, you’ll choose the dialysis therapy that fits your daily routine and goals.

Staying Prepared for A Transplant

If a transplant is your ultimate goal, you may have mixed emotions about going on dialysis. Remember that, if/when dialysis becomes necessary, committing to your therapy will help you stay your healthiest, which could help you be better prepared for a transplant when the time is right.

Dialysis therapy can help you continue living life on your terms, keeping you healthier and better able to do the things you enjoy. It may also help keep you prepared for a transplant when the time is right. It’s important to speak with your doctor about all therapy options and choose the one that is best suited to your goals and lifestyle. Choosing the right therapy and adhering to your dialysis prescription in the short-term may very well set you up for long-term success.


Home dialysis is one of the best dialysis treatments for ESRD. Find out if it’s the right treatment option for you.

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