Visitor Information


Make an Appointment


Online Appointments

Use our form

Patient Services
Google Search Patients



Dialysis help treat kidney failure. The kidneys help clear toxins out of your blood and help your body balance salt levels. Most patients begin dialysis when their kidneys have lost 85-90 percent of their ability. You may be on dialysis for a short time, or you may need it for the rest of your life.

End stage renal disease (ESRD) occurs when your kidneys are not working properly and/or have irreversible damage. Causes of ESRD may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney cancer
  • Drug use
  • High blood pressure

Dialysis is not a cure for ESRD, but it can help you feel better and live longer. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. 

The main functions of hemodialysis are to:

  • Remove waste and excess fluid from your blood
  • Control blood pressure
  • Keep safe levels of salts in the body, such as potassium, sodium and chloride

It may also be done to quickly remove toxins from the bloodstream. It can be used in cases of poisoning or drug overdose.

What to Expect

Hemodialysis is done at a dialysis center or hospital. It may be done at home with assistance.

An artificial kidney machine, called a dialyzer, filters your blood. The blood travels from your body to the machine through tubes inserted into a large vein in your body. After the blood is filtered in the machine, it travels back into your body through another tube.


Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Hemodialysis is usually done three times a week. Each treatment can last 2-4 hours. The specific time needed depends on:

  • How much kidney function remains
  • How much fluid weight gain has occurred since the last treatment
  • The amount of waste in your body
  • Your body size
  • The level of salts in your body

Hemodialysis is not painful. You may experience temporary discomfort as your doctor inserts the needle or tube. You can continue daily activities after the procedure is complete and your blood pressure is stable.

Post-procedure Care at Home

Dietary Guidelines

You should follow certain dietary guidelines to help maintain your overall health and optimize treatment effects. 


Your doctor may give you various medications that include:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Calcium supplements or multivitamins
  • Phosphorus binders to lower phosphorus levels in the blood
  • Diuretics to remove excess fluid
  • Stool softeners or laxatives to prevent or treat constipation, which can be caused by decreased fluid intake
  • Iron supplements to help make red blood cells
  • Medications to stimulate the body to produce more red blood cells

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • A drop in blood pressure during hemodialysis
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Infection
  • Feeling hot, sweaty, weak and/or lightheaded
  • Inflammation of the heart sac, a condition called pericarditis
  • Neurologic problems
  • Disruption of calcium and phosphorus balance, resulting in weakened bones

Heart problems may increase your risk of complications.


Call 434.243.3675


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Make an Appointment

Call us at 434.243.3675

or make an appointment online.