Auckland DHB Renal Medicine
Public Service, Nephrology
Haemodialysis is a treatment that cleans and filters your blood by removing the waste products and extra fluid that your kidneys can no longer eliminate. Haemodialysis requires a machine and an artificial kidney that is called a dialyzer. During the haemodialysis treatment your blood is pumped by the machine through tubing to the dialyzer. In the dialyzer, your blood is filtered, waste products and extra fluid are removed. The filtered or 'cleaned' blood is then returned to your body.
In order to remove and return blood to your body, an access to your blood vessels must be made. This access is made during a surgical procedure in which a fistula is created. The fistula is put in the lower arm (if possible) or the upper arm; other places can be used if the arm is not suitable. Your surgeon will determine which access is best for you.
If treatments must be started before a fistula is created, a temporary catheter may be placed externally (outside your body) to allow for immediate access to your blood vessels. Such a catheter is usually a temporary solution until real access can be created by the surgeon. Because of waiting lists for that procedure, or in some patients that face major problems regarding creation of vascular access, a so-called tunnelled line may be inserted. The tunnelled line runs under the skin of the chest and is held in place by a little cuff under the skin. This catheter can stay in place for a few years if necessary.
Once your access has healed (matured) it can be used for treatment. Two needles are placed in the access at the start of each treatment and taken out at the end of each treatment. One needle is used to remove your blood for cleansing (filtering) and the other is used to return the filtered blood to your body.
Haemodialysis treatments are usually performed three times each week. The length of your treatment is decided by your doctor but usually lasts from 3 to 5 hours. The time depends on your body size, any remaining kidney function and activity level. During your treatment you can read, watch TV or socialise with others close to you in the facility.