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How dialysis works

“You need your kidneys to live – they’re very important,” says Michael Katz, M.D., a nephrologist at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

When loss of kidney function occurs – because of an acute or chronic illness – dialysis can be a patient’s only lifesaving option.

Dialysis can be performed in an outpatient setting for patients with a chronic disease that causes kidney failure, such as diabetic kidney disease. For patients with a life-threatening acute condition, dialysis can be performed in the intensive care unit or inpatient dialysis center.  

A bridge to transplantation

For patients with kidney failure, dialysis is often considered a bridge to kidney transplantation. Individuals on dialysis are often on the kidney transplant waiting list and may receive a kidney from a loved one or from a deceased donor.

How dialysis is administered

Dialysis is administered in one of two ways: Hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.


The most common form of dialysis is hemodialysis, which is administered at a dialysis center. During this particular treatment, blood is removed from the body, treated through a dialysis kidney filter and then returned back to the body.

“People on this treatment are able to participate in normal daily family activities and a lot of people can go to work on a regular basis,” says Dr. Katz.

Peritoneal dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis is an at-home version of dialysis. Treatment involves using the peritoneal cavity to perform the dialysis.

“Fluid in the peritoneal membrane can be exchanged to remove kidney poisons and extra fluid, and therefore allows the individual to replace their kidney function, which restores them to good health and normal daily activities.”

To learn more about kidney health, visit Living Better’s Liver, Kidney and Pancreas page

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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