How does hemodialysis work?

  1. If the access to your bloodstream is by a fistula or graft, one or two needles are inserted into it at the start of each hemodialysis session. Plastic tubes attached to these needles connect them to a special filter called a dialyzer or artificial kidney. If you have a vascular access catheter, tubes attached directly to this catheter connect it to the dialyzer.
  2. The blood leaves your body via one needle, and is pumped through the dialyzer. There is an artificial membrane in the dialyzer. It removes wastes and extra fluid.
  3. The clean blood is then returned to your body via another needle or port inserted into your fistula, or through a tube into your vascular access catheter.
  4. Both needles are removed at the end of the session.

Only a small amount of blood (about 200ml or less than 1 cup) is outside your body at any one time.

Hemodialysis usually needs to be performed three times a week. Each treatment takes 3 to 6 hours.

You may feel tired and weak after treatment.

Hemodialysis: needles are inserted into a fistula or graft. Plastic tubes connect needles to a dialyzer filter or artificial kidney. Blood is pumped through the dialyzer into an artifical membrane that filters waste and fluid, then the clean blood is returned to your body.

"It's a relaxing time. I kind of look at it as my down time. It's something I have to do, just like brushing my teeth, so I do it." - Stay In Touch hemodialysis patient

May 1, 2006