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Treatment

The two treatments for end-stage renal disease are dialysis and kidney transplant.

Dialysis

There are two types of dialysis:

  • Hemodialysis. During hemodialysis, blood is removed from a vein. It is run through filters to remove waste products. The blood is then returned to the body. Hemodialysis usually is done at a dialysis center. The treatments are done three times a week, in three- to four-hour sessions.

  • Peritoneal dialysis. During peritoneal dialysis, sterile fluid is infused into the abdomen. Waste products gradually accumulate in the fluid, which is drained several hours later. Peritoneal dialysis is done at home. It takes longer than hemodialysis and must be done four to five times a day. It can be automated to occur during sleep.

Kidney transplants

Kidney transplants allow people with severe kidney disease to avoid or discontinue dialysis. However, even a successful kidney transplant is not a cure.

Anyone who receives a kidney transplant must take immunosuppressive drugs for life, unless they received a kidney donated by their identical twin. These are drugs that prevent the body from rejecting the donated organ. In addition, a good genetic match is needed for a successful transplant. Most transplant candidates wait one to three years before they are matched to a kidney from an unrelated donor.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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