Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Dialysis

Dialysis
beginning of content

Dialysis

3-minute read

The kidneys act as filters for the body, removing waste from the blood and getting rid of it via the urine. If your kidneys are not working properly, waste can build up in your blood. Dialysis can help damaged kidneys by performing the task of filtering.

What is dialysis?

Dialysis is a way to artificially clean the blood if your kidneys are no longer able to cope.

There are two main types of dialysis:

  • haemodialysis, in which your blood is circulated through a dialysis machine for cleaning
  • peritoneal dialysis, which uses the peritoneal membrane in your abdomen (tummy) to filter blood allowing cleaning to take place inside the body

When is dialysis needed?

Dialysis is most often required due to kidney failure.

Kidney failure can sometimes happen over a short period (days or weeks) – this is called acute kidney failure – as the result of a serious illness or accident.

More commonly, kidney failure is the result of chronic kidney disease, where kidney function worsens over many years. Dialysis is usually started when the person affected is finding it hard to keep up with their usual life. At this stage, the kidneys are usually working only about 10% of how they should be working.

Dialysis must be done for the rest of your life, unless you have a kidney transplant.

How does dialysis work?

Haemodialysis

During haemodialysis your blood is cycled through a special machine called a ‘dialyser’, which removes waste from your blood before pumping it back into your body. The blood leaves and then returns to your body through a needle, usually in your arm or leg.

Peritoneal dialysis

During peritoneal dialysis fluid is pumped into a space in your abdomen called the peritoneal cavity. The fluid enters and leaves through a catheter, which is a thin soft tube about 30 cm long that stays in place permanently. Waste from the blood is drawn into the fluid through a membrane in your abdomen and then removed from your body.

Peritoneal dialysis can be performed manually (continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis) or controlled by a machine (automated peritoneal dialysis).

Life on dialysis

Although starting dialysis is a life changing event, the goal is to have you leading as normal and active a life as possible. The type of dialysis that is right for you will depend on how you live your life, and where you live.

Dialysis can often be done at home and overnight, but depending on individual needs some dialysis may also be required during the day. This allows most people to continue to:

  • work
  • play sport and exercise
  • maintain a balanced diet
  • keep social engagements
  • have intimate relationships
  • travel and take holidays

More information

Read more about kidney disease and dialysis on the Kidney Health Australia website. There is a decision support tool to help you decide which type of dialysis is best for you.

Kidney Health Australia also provides information on home dialysis and on where to find support for managing dialysis.

Last reviewed: February 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Home Haemodialysis - A Treatment Option

Dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed when your kidneys have stopped working.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Haemodialysis — A Treatment Option

Dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed when your kidneys have stopped working. A sudden drop in kidney function is called acute kidney failure.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Access for Dialysis

It is the job of your kidneys to remove waste for your body. If your kidneys stop doing this properly, dialysis is needed.

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Dialysis & wellbeing | Kidney Health Australia

When you are on dialysis its important to pay attention to your general wellbeing. Emotional healthA very important aspect of wellbeing is your emotional health. Its not unusual for people on dialysis to need additional support in diffi

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Nutrition in Dialysis Patients | myVMC

The ability of the kidney to get rid of waste products and body fluids is compromised in dialysis patients. Consequently, a healthy balanced diet is extremely important.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dialysis (kidney disease treatment) information | myVMC

Dialysis is a treatment to artificially filter and remove waste from the blood in people with kidney disease, including kidney failure or renal failure.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dialysis Unit Guide | Kidney Health Australia

Our Dialysis Unit Guide enables you to quickly locate a dialysis unit in Australia. It can be used for referrals, when relocating, and to arrange short-term dialysis treatment in a particular city. It also includes information on home dialysis clinic

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Kidneys - dialysis and transplant - Better Health Channel

People with kidney failure need dialysis or a transplant to stay alive.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Dialysis | Kidney Health Australia

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Home dialysis | Kidney Health Australia

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback