What is Hemodialysis and How It Works in Our Body: Preparation and Risks

A procedure that filters waste from the blood when there is kidney failure.

During hemodialysis, a machine filters wastes, salts, and fluids from the blood when the kidneys are no longer healthy enough to do this job properly.

Hemodialysis is the most common way to treat advanced kidney failure. The procedure can help patients lead an active life despite having deficient kidneys.

Hemodialysis requires following a strict treatment program, taking certain medications regularly, and making substantial changes in the daily diet.

This process entails a great responsibility, which the patient should not assume independently. The patient goes hand in hand with his health care team, which includes a kidney specialist and other professionals with experience in managing hemodialysis. Even many patients may be able to perform hemodialysis at home.

Peritoneal dialysis is another way to remove waste from the blood when the kidneys can no longer do the job correctly. During peritoneal dialysis, the blood vessels in the peritoneum replace the kidneys with the help of a cleansing fluid that flows in and out of the peritoneal cavity.

Why is hemodialysis necessary?

The doctor is the one who determines when it is time to start hemodialysis, and that is based on a variety of factors; in principle, kidney function, patient’s symptoms, general health, and personal preferences are taken into account.


Some of the symptoms of kidney failure include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Vomiting
  • Sickness.
  • Swelling.

The doctor analyzes the creatinine tests in the blood, the sex of the patient, as well as their age, and other factors that may influence the hemodialysis.

  • Among the most common causes of kidney failure are:
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Kidney cysts (polycystic kidney disease).
  • Inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis).
  • Diabetes.
  • Inflammation of the kidney (glomerulonephritis).

Some people with severe (chronic) kidney failure opt for a different path than dialysis.

How to prepare before hemodialysis?

Patients who will undergo hemodialysis begin a preparation process weeks or months before the first session.

It is necessary to find a fast route of access to the patient’s bloodstream so that the surgeon will look for vascular access.

Is there a risk in hemodialysis?

Although hemodialysis can be very useful to replace the functions of the kidneys with problems, patients experience some symptoms or sensations during and after this procedure, being very common:

Itching: Many hemodialysis patients have itchy skin, which usually worsens during or after the session.

Bone diseases: In case the kidneys are badly damaged, they will not be able to process vitamin D in the body, which absorbs calcium so that the bones can be noticeably weakened.

Hypotension: Falls in blood pressure are some of the side effects, especially if the patient has diabetes. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and muscle cramps.

Hyperkalemia: The repeated increase in potassium levels in the blood is another side effect of hemodialysis; the patient must maintain a moderate potassium intake during the sessions.

What to expect from hemodialysis?

Although sessions three times a week are the most common in dialysis centers, it is suggested that performing hemodialysis at home is for the patient:

  • Greater feeling of well-being
  • There is a notable reduction in secondary symptoms, such as choking, headaches, and cramps.
  • Increased appetite, sleep patterns, and ability to concentrate.
  • Better life quality.