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Treatment Option: Peritoneal Dialysis (PD)

What is peritoneal dialysis?

Peritoneal dialysis (also called PD) is a treatment for kidney failure. It is a way to clean waste and fluid from your blood when your kidneys have stopped working.

How does PD work?

Graphic showing a Patient receiving continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD).

PD uses the lining in your abdomen (called your peritoneum) and a special solution (called dialysate).

Before you begin PD, a doctor will place a tube (called a catheter) into your abdomen. Through this tube, you will put new solution into your abdomen and drain old solution out.

Each time you change the solution is called an exchange. Between exchanges, the solution will sit inside your abdomen. During this time, the solution will absorb waste and fluid from your blood, through your peritoneum. After a certain amount of time, you will replace the old solution with new solution.

There are two types of PD:

  • Continuous cycler-assisted peritoneal dialysis (CCPD) uses a machine (called a cycler) to do exchanges.
  • Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) uses gravity to help you do manual exchanges.

Many people do some of both CAPD and CCPD to make sure they’re getting enough dialysis. For example, your doctor may suggest that you do CCPD at night while you sleep and do a couple of CAPD exchanges during the day.

When should I do PD?

PD must be done every day (or night). Your doctor will tell you how many exchanges you need to do each day and how long you need to let the solution sit in your abdomen between exchanges.

Where should I do PD?

Most people do their PD exchanges at home, but you can do them any place that is clean and dry.

What else should I think about?

As you consider PD, think about how it fits with your lifestyle.


Most people on PD follow a kidney-friendly diet that limits phosphorus, potassium, sodium and protein. But, the diet for people on PD is usually not as strict as the diet for people on standard hemodialysis. Ask your dietitian about making a meal plan that works for you.

Work and school

PD often allows for a more flexible schedule than other types of treatment. This may make it easier for you to keep regular schedules for work, school or other activities.

Travel and activities

When traveling, your PD supplies can be shipped to your destination(s). Also, there are usually very few limits on activities, but people on PD are usually told to avoid hot tubs, public pools and lake swimming. Think about the types of activities you enjoy and whether PD would be a good fit for you.

Finances and insurance

Most people on dialysis are eligible for Medicare. For people doing home dialysis treatments like PD, Medicare may begin as early as the first month of treatment. Talk to the social worker at your dialysis center to learn if you can get Medicare and whether you may need a second type of coverage.

PD may be a good option for people who are just starting dialysis. Ask your doctor whether PD is a good option for you.

Additional Resources

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:

Kidney School:

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Illustration courtesy of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,

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