What is Haemodialysis?

Haemodialysis is a way of cleansing the blood of toxins, extra salt and fluids through a dialysis machine. It helps maintain proper chemical balance such as potassium, sodium and chloride and keeps blood pressure under control.

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How does it work?

During dialysis, two needles will be inserted into the vascular access, one to remove the blood and the other to return cleansed blood to the body. The patient is connected (via tubing) to the dialysis machine through a vein in the arm, the blood is pumped from the body to a special filter called the dialyser, which is made of tiny capillaries.

Blood is continuously pumped through the dialyser, where waste products and excess water are removed. The blood becomes purified when the waste products diffuse from the blood across the membrane of these tiny capillaries. This purified blood is then returned to the patient’s body through larger tubes.

Haemodialysis is performed 3 times a week, with each session lasting about 4 hours, depending on the body size and medical condition. At NKF, patients choose between 2 sessions i.e. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They can also choose the morning, afternoon or evening timeslot.

Things to Take Care

Before and during dialysis, the patients need to clean the skin covering the access before inserting the needles to avoid infection. If any signs of infection are noticed, inform the nurse immediately. The patients need to make sure that their blood is flowing and not clotting while on treatment. It is important that the catheter is kept dry, even when taking a bath.

The patients will also need to take care of their fistula or graft. They should not wear anything tight around the fistula/graft arm i.e. watches, bracelets, tight clothing, or carry heavy bags looped over the fistula/graft. Besides checking that the fistula/graft is working by feeling for the buzzing sensation every morning and night, the patients should not allow non-dialysis staff to take blood or blood pressure on their fistula/graft arm. They need to observe for signs of infection, such as redness, oozing of blood or pus, swelling and heat, and contact the nurse immediately if there are any problems with their fistula/graft.

Possible Complications

Signs Causes Remedies
Hypotension, light-headedness, nausea or vomiting Sudden drop in blood pressure due to the rapid removal of fluids Return fluids back to the body
Muscle cramps As above
Fatigue Fluid exchange Resting after treatment

Lifestyle Issues

It usually takes a few months for patients to adjust to haemodialysis. It is normal for patients to have concerns over their personal life. With rehabilitation, counselling and strong family support, patients can overcome the struggles they face.

With good dialysis treatment, patients can still live a normal life. Depending on the individual’s condition apart from kidney failure, many are fit enough to work. If the patients are still in school, they can and should continue with their education, and can even take part in sports and other recreational activities. Dialysis sessions can be adapted to fit in their daily routine. Patients can take holidays as long as arrangements can be made for dialysis treatments abroad. Please access the Global Dialysis website for dialysis centres worldwide.

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Exercising is good for the body as well as for the mind. It is beneficial for kidney patients to engage in sports and exercises as long as precautions are taken. Check with the doctor for the exercises and sports that can be done.

Read more about NKF Haemodialysis Programme