Home Dialysis

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Home dialysis is one of many dialysis treatments available at UVA.

You may benefit from home dialysis if you:

  • Need flexibility in your schedule due to work or school obligations
  • Can either set up dialysis equipment on your own or have a friend or family member who can help
  • Do not have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, that require ongoing medical care
  • Feel comfortable following care instructions independently
  • Can commit to performing dialysis on a daily basis
  • Have not had previous surgery or organ damage in your abdominal area (peritoneal dialysis patients only)

Home Dialysis to Fit Your Life

If your kidney function is declining and medications and other treatments aren’t working, dialysis can offer life-saving care. Nephrologist Daphne Knicely, MD, explains the types of home dialysis and how they can work to fit your life. View home dialysis transcript.

Getting Started

We start working with you and your family several weeks before your first treatment. We help with:

  • Dialysis access — A dialysis access is a site on your body where we surgically create a way for you to receive dialysis.
    • For hemodialysis patients, we connect smaller veins in your wrist to create a large vein. This makes it easier for blood to flow to and from the dialysis machine. It also protects you from infection and harmful blood clotting.
    • For peritoneal dialysis patients, we create a small opening in your abdomen and attach a catheter.
  • Home training program — A team of nurses, social workers and dietitians works directly with you and your family to teach the correct way to give yourself dialysis and how to prevent complications.
  • Equipment and supplies — We help you get all the equipment and supplies you need. We also tell you how to order more supplies and what to do if you have any problems. 

Overnight (nocturnal) dialysis 

A special machine filters your blood while you sleep, so you don't need any treatments during the day. You typically dialyze for 8 to 10 hours, five or six days a week.

Short daily dialysis

This treatment uses a special machine that allows for shorter, more frequent treatments. You typically dialyze for two to three hours, most days of the week.

Peritoneal Dialysis

The most common form of home dialysis, peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your abdominal cavity (peritoneum) to help your kidneys filter toxins and extra fluid. Because this form of dialysis closely mirrors your kidneys’ natural functioning, patients on peritoneal dialysis enjoy more flexibility in their diet and medications.

Our research into kidney disease and dialysis gives you access to devices and peritoneal dialysis solutions that are not widely available. We also use mobile devices to improve access to nephrology care for patients living in remote areas.

Blood Filtering: How it Works

Peritoneal dialysis features several steps:

  • You use the catheter to fill your abdomen with dialysis solution. You may experience a sensation similar to having a full stomach.
  • The solution stays in your abdomen, which allows special sugars to draw out the toxins in your blood. Toxins pass through tiny blood vessels in the peritoneum into the solution.
  • The length of time the solution stays in your abdomen (dwell time) can last anywhere from four to six hours.
  • Once the dwell time is up, you drain the solution into a disposable bag.

The process of filling your abdomen, allowing the solution to dwell and draining it, is called an exchange. Your doctor will let you know how much dwell time and how many exchanges you need to perform each day.

CAPD and CCPD Dialysis Techniques

We offer two types of peritoneal dialysis:

  • Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)  In addition to performing regular exchanges during the day, you also do a longer, overnight exchange.
  • Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD)  Also known as automated peritoneal dialysis, CCPD uses a machine to perform exchanges at night while you sleep. You begin each morning with an exchange that lasts all day.

Follow-Up Care and Ongoing Support

You receive follow-up care on a monthly basis at one of our dialysis locations. Care includes:

  • Testing — We run lab tests to see how well the dialysis is cleaning your blood. We'll adjust your treatment plan if you're getting too much or too little dialysis.
  • Support — Our dialysis nurses, dietitians and social workers offer ongoing support and information about your care.

Dedicated home dialysis staff members are available by phone any time you have questions or need help.