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Treatment Options for Kidney Failure

If your kidneys stop working, you will need treatment to help manage the symptoms of kidney failure. Treatments that clean waste and fluid from your blood can help you live longer.

What is a kidney transplant?

A kidney transplant is when a healthy kidney from another person is put into your body. The kidney can come from a living donor or someone who has just died. The new kidney will do the work that your old kidneys used to do.

Things to think about:

  • A kidney transplant can help you have a more normal
    lifestyle than other treatment options.
  • You will need to have many tests and may have to wait a
    long time before you can get a kidney transplant. You may
    need to do dialysis while you wait.
  • If you get a kidney transplant, you will need to take anti-rejection medicines for as long as you have the new kidney.
  • Kidney transplants don’t last forever. If your new kidney
    stops working, you may need to do dialysis while you wait
    for another transplant.

What is peritoneal dialysis?

Peritoneal dialysis (also called PD) uses the lining in your abdomen (called your peritoneum) and a special solution (called dialysate) to remove waste and extra fluid from your blood.

Things to think about:

  • PD is a treatment that you do for yourself every day (or night) at home.
  • To do PD, you will need to have a flexible tube (called a catheter) in your abdomen. This requires
    minor surgery, and the catheter will stay in your abdomen for as long as you need PD treatment.
  • If you do PD, you will need enough storage space in your home for all of your PD supplies.

What is hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis (also called hemo) is a treatment that cycles your blood through a special filter on a dialysis machine. The filter cleans waste and extra fluid from your blood. This is the most common type of treatment for kidney failure.

Things to think about:

  • Hemodialysis is usually done at a dialysis center, but it can be done at home if
    you are able and have a partner to help.
  • Most people do hemodialysis three times each week.
  • Each hemodialysis session usually lasts for three to five hours.
  • In order to have hemodialysis, you must have a vascular access. This is where your blood
    will exit and re-enter your body during treatments.
  • Getting a vascular access requires surgery. The best time to get a vascular access
    is several weeks or months before you begin treatment.

What is medical management?

You may choose not to have a kidney transplant or do dialysis treatments. If you decide not to have any of these treatments, you may not live for very long. Still, you can work with your healthcare team to slow down your kidney disease and prolong your life as much as possible. Your healthcare team can also prescribe medicines to help you manage symptoms and stay comfortable. This is called medical management.

How do I choose a treatment option?

Start by talking to your doctor to learn more about your treatment options. You might also:

  • Think about your lifestyle and goals. Which treatment is the best match?
  • Talk with other patients, either online or through a local support group. Hearing about
    others’ experiences can be helpful.
  • Try the treatment option you think will be best. Many patients are able to switch from
    one type of treatment to another.

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