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Guide to kidney dialysis types, how the dialysis process works step-by-step, procedure and side-effects

Kidney Dialysis: Types, Procedure & Side Effects

Kidney Dialysis is a life-saving medical procedure that can mimic the vital functions of the kidneys. Thus it acts as a life-sustaining procedure for people whose organs can no longer operate properly. This situation is also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). It is characterised by the extreme deterioration of kidney function. In such cases, the natural ability of the body to filter and remove waste products, balance electrolytes, and regulate fluid levels are compromised. Dialysis thus acts as an intervention to maintain these essential functions.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) happens when the kidneys lose their ability to filter and eliminate waste products from the bloodstream significantly. ESRD is caused by various conditions including chronic kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, or other renal disorders. Gradually, the kidneys lose functionality, and harmful substances like urea and creatinine accumulate in the body. This leads to imbalances in electrolytes and fluid levels.

In this blog, we’ll explain what kidney dialysis is, the different types, how it works, common side effects, and more. Our goal is to provide a complete yet simple overview so you feel informed about this essential kidney failure treatment.

What is Kidney Dialysis?

Kidney Dialysis is a treatment that filters wastes and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys are no longer working properly. It performs some of the vital functions healthy kidneys would do – removing waste, balancing chemicals in the body, and getting rid of extra salt and water.

During dialysis, blood is pumped from the body into a special machine called a dialyzer which contains a filter to clean the blood. The blood flows along one side of the filter while a dialysis solution called dialysate flows along the other side. The dialysate absorbs wastes and extra fluid from the blood and returns the clean blood to the body. Depending on the type, dialysis is done in cycles – either in a clinic three times a week or at home daily. Though dialysis is not a cure, it can greatly improve the quality of life by reducing the symptoms and complications of kidney failure. With proper treatment, most people on dialysis can lead full and active lives.

What is The Role of Dialysis?

Dialysis is like a crucial surrogate for the damaged kidneys. The procedure actively works to restore and maintain equilibrium within the body. The objectives of dialysis include:

  • Waste Removal: Dialysis does the primary function of filtering waste products generated by the body’s metabolic processes. It utilises specialised equipment to eliminate toxins like urea and creatinine from the bloodstream.
  • Fluid Balance: Dialysis is crucial when kidneys fail to regulate fluid levels by adjusting the excretion of water through urine. Dialysis prevents fluid retention or dehydration. The procedure is essential for maintaining blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.
  • Electrolyte Regulation: Kidneys manage electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. Consequently, Dialysis helps manage these electrolyte levels. Thus, preventing imbalances that could lead to heart arrhythmias or muscle weakness.

Types of Kidney Dialysis 

Kidney Dialysis is a treatment that filters wastes and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys are no longer working properly. There are mainly two different types of dialysis that work in slightly different ways, they are:


  • Procedure: Hemodialysis uses a dialyser machine that functions as an artificial kidney. During the procedure, a kidney specialist withdraws blood from the patient’s body. After that, the blood is filtered through the dialyse. Thus, it removes toxins and excess fluids and then returns to the body.
  • How it Works: The dialyser acting as a kidney has semi-permeable membranes. This allows waste products and excess fluids to pass through. Hence helping in effectively cleansing the blood.
  • Side Effects: However, there may be a few side effects of hemodialysis, including low blood pressure, muscle cramps, and anaemia.

Peritoneal Dialysis:

  • Procedure: When a patient seeks peritoneal dialysis, the peritoneum membrane lining the abdominal cavity acts as a natural filter.  The kidney specialist introduces cleansing fluid or dialysate into the abdomen. Consequently, waste products pass from the blood vessels in the peritoneum and into the dialysate.
  • How it Works: The waste products are absorbed by the dialysate. Consequently, after a waiting period, the dialysate and waste is drained from the abdomen.
  • Side Effects: Potential side effects of peritoneal dialysis include infection, weight gain, and hernias.

How Kidney Dialysis Works

Kidney Dialysis is a treatment that filters wastes, chemicals, and fluid from the blood when the kidneys are damaged or diseased. It acts as an artificial replacement for many of the kidney’s functions. The dialysis process works in the following ways:

Hemodialysis Procedure:

  • Blood Access: The kidney specialist creates a  vascular access point, surgically. This arteriovenous fistula or graft helps the inflow of blood to and out of the dialysis machine.
  • Filtration: The dialyser filters the Blood, and waste products and excess fluids pass through semi-permeable membranes.
  • Return: Gradually purified blood is returned to the body through the vascular access point.

Peritoneal Dialysis Procedure:

  • Catheter Insertion: A kidney doctor surgically inserts a  catheter into the abdominal cavity, allowing the introduction and removal of dialysate.
  • Dialysate Infusion: During the procedure, Dialysate is introduced into the peritoneum. Gradually, waste products move from the blood vessels into the dialysate.
  • Drainage: After a prescribed waiting period, the used dialysate is drained along with the waste products out of the body.

Common Side Effects of Kidney Dialysis

Though dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment, it can sometimes cause side effects. The most common side effects of Kidney dialysis include:

Low Blood Pressure:

  • Hemodialysis Dialysis: Due to the rapid removal of fluids during hemodialysis there is a general drop in blood pressure. It may lead to dizziness and nausea.
  • Peritoneal Dialysis: During the medical procedure there is excessive removal of fluids. Consequently, it can also result in low blood pressure.

Muscle Cramps:

  • Hemodialysis Dialysis: As the procedure initiates rapid changes in fluid levels, it can lead to muscle cramps in the lower limbs.
  • Peritoneal Dialysis: Sometimes muscle cramps may occur during peritoneal dialysis.


  • Hemodialysis & Peritoneal Dialysis: The dialysis procedure can contribute to anaemia. This happens due to the loss of red blood cells during the process.


  • Peritoneal Dialysis: During the process of dialysis, the catheter also increases the risk of infection. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain proper hygiene and care.

Weight Gain:

  • Peritoneal Dialysis: Patients may face weight gain because of the absorption of sugar in the dialysate over time.

Essential FAQs for Kidney Dialysis Patients

1. How often will I need kidney dialysis sessions?

The frequency of individual dialysis sessions depends on various factors. However, it is typically three times a week for hemodialysis. And daily for Peritoneal dialysis or as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

2. Is there a specific diet to follow kidney during dialysis?

Yes, you must take a kidney-friendly diet. Therefore, limiting sodium, phosphorus, and potassium intake is crucial. 

3. Can I travel while on kidney dialysis?

Before travelling, consult with your healthcare provider to arrange dialysis near your destination. You can also opt for self-dialysis by bringing the necessary supplies with you.

4. Are there restrictions on physical activity during kidney dialysis?

Patients can pursue normal activities after hemodialysis. However, those on peritoneal dialysis may need to limit certain activities when the abdomen is filled with dialysis solution.

5. What are the signs of complications requiring immediate attention?

If you are facing difficulty urinating, dizziness, signs of infection, severe abdominal pain, or unusual bulges in the abdomen or groin, it is better to consult a doctor.


Dialysis plays a vital role in sustaining the lives of individuals with kidney failure. Now, that you know the types, procedures, mechanisms, and potential side effects associated with dialysis, you can have a better idea to make informed decisions. If you or a loved one is seeking expert care for kidney-related issues or exploring dialysis options, consider reaching out to Dispur Polyclinic and Hospitals.

Our dedicated team of kidney doctors is committed to providing comprehensive healthcare. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or learn more about our specialised services in nephrology and dialysis. Your journey to better kidney health starts with us. Let Dispur Polyclinic and Hospitals be your partner in health, offering personalised care and support every step of the way.

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Book a free consultation Now !

Our Helpline no's

(+91) 8822669275
(+91) 7664011111
(+91) 7670007615