There are three main types of dialysis treatment:
The blood is extracted by a machine and pushed through the dialysis filter, which purifies the blood. The filter comprises two compartments separated by a membrane; the blood flows in one compartment, while the dialysis solution (an aqueous solution enriched with solutes that need to be released into the blood and deficient in those that need to be removed) flows in the other.
To connect the patient to the machine, it is necessary to have vascular access – a blood extraction point that can regularly provide the large volumes required for efficient dialysis. The most common vascular accesses are the arteriovenous fistula (a point of junction surgically created between a vein and an artery, typically at the forearm level) and the central venous catheter (a catheter positioned inside a large calibre venous vessel).
The session usually lasts about four hours and is performed three times a week. The duration of each session and the weekly frequency may vary to the doctor’s discretion, based on the patient’s clinical needs.
Haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis can be performed at home, with different procedures and set-ups.
Home haemodialysis is mainly suitable for patients with no other severe pathologies. It is a complex therapy that requires proper training and the help and presence of an adequately prepared person (the ‘dialysis partner’) during the sessions. The dialysis partner is often a family member who acquires the necessary knowledge and skills during a few months of training at the dialysis Centre. It is also necessary to install a proper dialysis water preparation system at home.
Home peritoneal dialysis requires the presence of a dialysis partner only if the patient is unable to independently perform the dialysis procedures, which are simple but require a learning period. There are two types of peritoneal dialysis: automated peritoneal dialysis (APD) and continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). In CAPD, the presence of the partner is only necessary during the exchange procedure. In APD, it is usually necessary at the beginning and at the end of the session, while during the session it is enough for the partner to be nearby, in order to be able to take action in case of alarms generated by the equipment.
Unlike hemodialysis, with peritoneal dialysis, the blood is filtered inside the patient’s body through a peritoneal membrane covering the inner walls of the abdomen and the abdominal organs. The dialysis solution is introduced into the abdominal cavity and then removed through a small tube called peritoneal catheter. This treatment is done daily and can be performed at home.