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All About Home Dialysis

Doctorpedia Editorial Team Doctorpedia Editorial Team April 28, 2021
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Those who are experiencing kidney failure used to be tied down to regular visits to a dialysis center to perform this life-saving treatment. However, for many patients, home dialysis has become an option. 

 

Fact (and fiction) about dialysis in general is available, but here, we’ll focus on what’s important to know about doing dialysis at home.

 

What Kinds of Dialysis Can be Done at Home?

 

There are two basic types of dialysis: Hemodialysis, where you are connected to an artificial kidney machine that cleans your blood and returns it to your body, and peritoneal dialysis, where fluid is filtered through your abdomen to remove impurities in the blood. Both these types of dialysis can be performed at home with training and your healthcare team’s approval. Peritoneal dialysis, particularly, is being used more and more as an in-home option

 

Who is a Candidate for Home Dialysis?

 

The idea of doing dialysis at home is appealing because it provides greater convenience, comfort, and privacy, but there are some considerations that you, your caregiver and/or family, and your healthcare provider need to discuss to determine if you’re a good candidate. It can be challenging! But most patients feel the advantages are worth the effort. Here are a few things you need to be able to do to try dialysis at home.

  • Basic skills: You or your caregiver will need to be able to read and write, have a basic level of manual dexterity, and good vision. These skills will all help you follow the instructions from your healthcare provider, read and understand the instructions for any equipment, complete necessary paperwork, and order supplies.
  • Ability and time to learn how to do it: You or your caregiver will need to have the initiative and motivation to learn how to do something new. The training for home dialysis can be intensive. Most of the time, people can learn to do home peritoneal dialysis in two weeks. Home hemodialysis usually takes longer–about 3-5 weeks. 
  • Home modification: You may need to do some plumbing or electrical modifications to be able to do home dialysis depending on what your home already has and what equipment you’ll need. It’s possible that your insurance may cover these modifications. 

 

It’s helpful, but not completely necessary (depending on your self-care abilities) to have a caregiver or family member who can help with home dialysis. It’s important to remember that this decision affects not only the patient, but the entire household. If you have a partner or family members at home, make sure they are onboard with the decision.

What Do I Need to Know to Do Dialysis at Home?

 

Your healthcare team will help you get the training you need to do either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis at home. This training will involve lessons in topics such as:

 

  • How to perform the dialysis
  • How to care for any equipment
  • How to order necessary supplies
  • How to troubleshoot any issues
  • Who to contact if you have any problems

 

Online help and patient discussion groups are available, too. Remember that you are not alone in your home dialysis journey! But also keep in mind that your situation is unique; you should always follow your healthcare team’s instructions even if they conflict with something you read online.

 

Conclusion

 

According to UCLA Health, one in three patients who try home dialysis return to in-center dialysis. So if you try it and it’s just not for you, this is still an option. Work with your healthcare provider to make sure you are getting the type of dialysis that works best for you and your personal situation.

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