In a healthy human body, the kidneys filter waste products, harmful substances found in food and water, and excess fluids from the blood, and eliminate them from the body through the urinary system. However, in some cases, kidneys that have become deformed over time may not be able to perform this function partially or completely. In such situations, hemodialysis is applied. Although hemodialysis is not a treatment for kidney failure, it helps to control blood pressure and balance important minerals such as potassium, sodium, and calcium in the blood.
Hemodialysis Treatment Process
During hemodialysis, blood passes through a machine called a dialyzer, which acts as a filter. The dialyzer, also known as an artificial kidney, plays a crucial role at the beginning of the treatment. At the start of hemodialysis, a dialysis nurse or technician inserts two needles into the patient. Each needle is attached to a soft tube that is connected to the dialysis machine. The machine filters the blood from the patient and returns the filtered blood back into the body. During the process, the dialysis machine controls the blood pressure.
After being trained by the healthcare team, patients can choose to insert their own needles in long-term treatment. If the insertion of the needles causes discomfort to the patient, a numbing cream or spray can be used.
With modern dialysis machines, patients are attached to the dialysis machine for a designated time period of one week, and the functions that healthy kidneys perform over the course of seven days in a healthy body are carried out within approximately 10-12 hours per week using the dialysis machine.
What Are Artificial Kidneys Used For?
Artificial kidneys, also known as dialyzers, cannot perform all the functions of organic kidneys, but they can perform some of the tasks that the kidney cannot. Therefore, the artificial kidney is an instrument and part of the hemodialysis method. To ensure the success of the hemodialysis process, the patient must pay attention to diet and treatment rules. During the diet, limiting certain fluids and foods can help prevent excess fluid buildup in the body.
Where Is Hemodialysis Performed?
Hemodialysis treatment is conducted at dialysis centers. Treatment schedules are programmed according to the condition of the patient's kidneys, usually ranging from three to five times a week. Each dialysis session lasts approximately four hours, and treatment programs are adjusted according to the patient's age, profession, daily routine, biological and physiological characteristics.
For patients who do not have the opportunity or time to go to dialysis centers, home hemodialysis services are available. These services include standard, daily, and nightly treatments, and treatment programs are implemented according to the doctor's recommendations.
What are the Benefits of Hemodialysis?
If hemodialysis treatment is regularly applied, the success rate of the process is high. The patient's energy level and appetite may increase. Hemodialysis reduces salt and fluid accumulation, so the patient's shortness of breath and swelling may decrease.
To benefit from hemodialysis treatment in the best way, the ideal "dry weight" should be maintained. The ideal dry weight is the weight measured when there is no excess fluid in the body. During the hemodialysis application process, if attention is paid to sodium intake, the ideal dry weight should be reached at the end of each hemodialysis session. If hemodialysis treatments are beneficial and ideal dry weight is maintained, blood pressure is controlled, and the risk of a heart attack is minimized.
Why is Nutrition Important for Hemodialysis Patients?
It is very important for patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment to pay attention to what they eat and drink. Alcoholic, acidic, and carbonated beverages, as well as fatty, salty, and sugary foods, should be consumed very carefully. In addition, foods with high levels of sodium and phosphorus should be avoided, and the amount of fluid consumed, including fluids in foods, should be controlled. Otherwise, fluid accumulation in the patient's body may occur during hemodialysis treatment.
The following nutrition rules should be followed during hemodialysis:
-Protein should be added to the diet.
-Foods containing the correct amount of potassium should be selected.
-Vitamin supplements that help with kidney failure can be taken.
What Equipment is Used in Hemodialysis?
The hemodialysis process involves the use of various tools and equipment such as a water purification system, dialysis solution, dialyzer, and hemodialysis sets. In the initial stage, the water purification system serves to filter out harmful substances seen in the kidneys. A water purification system is utilized to allow toxic substances to be removed from the body without accumulation in the kidneys.
Water purification systems use filtration methods such as softening, activated carbon filters, and deionization. Additionally, ultrafiltration, distillation, and other methods can be used to filter toxic substances in the water before they reach the kidney.
The hemodialysis solution selects ions that must be present in the patient's blood, ensuring that essential minerals required for the kidneys are obtained. The proper ratios of substances such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, glucose, bicarbonate, and acetate necessary for the hemodialysis process can be determined through this method.
What Are the Alternatives to Hemodialysis?
Before receiving treatment with a dialysis machine, different treatment options can be applied according to the patient's preference and the opinions of expert doctors. These include peritoneal dialysis and organ transplantation options.
Peritoneal dialysis is performed by filtering blood through a point called the peritoneum. The peritoneal cavity stores and filters the solution used in dialysis. Excess fluid and toxic substances are eliminated from the body through peritoneal dialysis. Peritoneal dialysis can be preferred by experts according to the patient's condition and preference. It is a frequently used method for people with heart and vascular diseases. This method can also be used in kidney diseases commonly seen in children due to the limited vascular access. This dialysis method, which can be applied at home, is preferred especially to prevent disruption of the education of school-aged children.
Kidney transplantation is usually the last resort in the treatment of kidney diseases. In this process, a common decision is made by the nephrology specialist and the person who will perform or receive the kidney transplant as a result of the treatment. Organ transplantation can be considered in cases of complete kidney failure.