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What is hemodialysis?
Hemodialysis is a mechanical way to remove the waste products from your blood and to regulate your body’s fluids and chemicals. This is part of the work your kidneys normally do.
 
Why does a person have to have hemodialysis?
Hemodialysis is used when a person has acute or chronic kidney (renal) failure. It does not cure the problem causing the kidney failure, but it does the work in place of the kidneys. It is usually needed if the person’s own kidneys are doing less than 10% of the workload. If the kidney failure is not treated, the body will become overloaded with fluid and the blood will have a buildup of chemical wastes (uremia) that can lead to death.
 
What is acute renal failure (ARF)?
Acute renal failure (ARF) is the sudden loss of kidney function. The body retains fluid and harmful waste builds up. A person with acute renal failure often requires hemodialysis while the cause of the problem is being found and/or treated. Some causes of acute renal failure can be corrected and the kidneys begin working again.
 
What is chronic renal failure (CRF)?
Chronic renal failure (CRF) is the slow and progressive loss of kidney function over several years, often resulting in permanent kidney failure.
 
What is End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)?
End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) is the term used when chronic renal failure has reached the point when the kidneys are working at less than 10% capacity and it is permanent. This is considered to be total and permanent kidney failure. People with ESRD need dialysis or a kidney transplant to replace the work of the kidneys. Without that, they will die.
 
What causes ESRD?
In the United States, the leading cause of ESRD is diabetes. The second leading cause is uncontrolled high blood pressure. The third cause is glomerulonephritis: a disease that damages the kidney’s filtering units (called glomeruli). In many cases, the cause of this particular disease is not known, but some cases may be inherited and others may be triggered by an infection. Other reasons: Polycystic Kidney Disease, overuse of some over-the-counter painkillers, and taking illegal drugs such as heroin.
 
How long does a hemodialysis treatment take?
Usually 3.5 to 4 hours.
 
How often does hemodialysis have to be done if I have ESRD?
Usually three times a week. For example: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
 
Does it hurt?
Once the hemodialysis treatment is started, there is no pain. You don’t feel it, just as you don’t feel your blood circulating through your body at other times.
 
If I need hemodialysis, do I need to be seen by a specialist?
Yes. A Nephrologist, a physician who specializes in the care of people with kidney problems, will help treat you and will be responsible for medical care in regard to the hemodialysis.
 
If I am under the care of a Nephrologist, does that mean I won’t see my family doctor anymore?
You will continue to have the physicians you choose. If you have a primary care physician (“family doctor”), that physician and the Nephrologist will work together to care for you.
 
What do I do if I’m a chronic hemodialysis patient and I want to go on vacation?
Tell the personnel at your outpatient hemodialysis center when and where you plan to vacation. Let them know as far in advance as possible. They will help you to locate an outpatient hemodialysis center where you are planning to vacation and will help to make arrangements for you to be dialyzed there.
 
Does insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid pay for chronic hemodialysis?
If you have private insurance, it usually covers hemodialysis treatments for a designated period of time. This may vary with individual policies. After that time, Medicare and/or Medicaid are available for those who qualify. The Social Worker at your outpatient hemodialysis center can provide you with information about other financial assistance available, if needed.
 
How many people in our area are on chronic hemodialysis?
As of August 2001, there are approximately 150 people being dialyzed at the outpatient hemodialysis centers in Decatur.