How Dialysis Works and What to Expect During Your Treatment

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
July 19, 2021

When your kidneys begin to lose function, you may need to consider dialysis. This treatment might sound scary, especially if you are unsure of what it entails. You may wonder: What is dialysis? How often do I need treatment? What can I expect from treatment? All these questions and more are answered below.

What Is Dialysis?

When your kidneys are healthy, they clean your blood. They also produce hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood healthy. When your kidneys fail, you need treatment to replace the work your kidneys used to do. Unless you have a kidney transplant, you will need a treatment called dialysis.

There are two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both types filter your blood to remove harmful wastes, extra salt, and water.

What Is Hemodialysis?

In hemodialysis, an artificial kidney is used to remove waste, extra chemicals, and fluid from your blood. An entry point is made by a narrow plastic tube called a catheter, which is inserted into a large vein in your neck. This type of access may be temporary but is sometimes used for long-term treatment.

What to Expect?

You may receive treatment in a hospital or a separate dialysis center. Most people will need 3 treatments a week. Each treatment takes 3 to 4 hours. Typically, you will have set appointments for your treatments.

During dialysis, your blood will flow through a special filter that removes waste and excess fluid. The filter is sometimes called an artificial kidney.

Once you arrive at the center, trained health care providers will help you. Here is an overview of what will happen:

• Your provider will check your blood pressure, temperature, breathing, heart rate, and pulse.

• Needles will be placed in your access area to allow blood to flow in and out. This may be uncomfortable at first.

• The needles are attached to a tube that connects to the dialysis machine. Your blood will flow through the tube, into the filter, and back into your body.

• The same site is used every time, and eventually a small tunnel will form in the skin. This is called a buttonhole, which is like the hole that forms in a pierced ear. Once it forms, you will not notice the needles as much.

• Your session will last 3 to 4 hours. During this time, your provider will monitor your blood pressure and the dialysis machine.

• During treatment, you can read, use a laptop, nap, watch TV, or chat with providers and other dialysis patients.

• Once your session is over, your provider will remove the needles and put a dressing on your access area.

During your first sessions, you may experience nausea, cramping, dizziness, and headaches. This may go away after a few sessions but be sure to tell your providers if you feel unwell. Your providers may be able to adjust your treatment to help you feel more comfortable.

Learn More About Dialysis and Treatment

At South Valley Vascular, our passion is saving lives. With our amazing kidney specialists helping every step of the way, we see many success stories. Give us a call today at one of our five locations listed below to learn about our services.


● Visalia (559) 625-4118

● Hanford (559) 825-6204

● Porterville (559) 788-1022

● Tulare (559) 625-4118

● Fresno (559) 746-9605