Renal dialysis, a treatment that filters the blood and serves to replace some of the function of the kidneys, can be used in a number of different ways. One of the most common uses for the therapy is to treat patients with chronic renal failure. In these cases, it replaces the function of the kidney by filtering out toxins and other waste products of metabolism. The therapy can also be used to treat acute renal failure on a short-term basis. Additionally, it has proven useful in removing poisons or toxins from the blood in cases of overdoses.
Perhaps the most common use of renal dialysis is to treat patients who have chronic kidney disease. In these patients, a wide variety of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or inherited diseases have compromised the ability of the kidneys to do their job. Without the kidneys, a number of toxins and other chemicals can build up in the blood. Undergoing renal dialysis allows these substances to be removed. Often patients with chronic kidney disease will need to have dialysis performed two to three times a week, and each session takes three to four hours to complete.
Patients with acute kidney failure can also benefit from renal dialysis. Common causes of this condition can include infection, ingestion of drugs or medications, or decreased total fluid volume in the body. Often dialysis is performed in these patients in order to alleviate symptoms associated with the kidney failure. In many cases dialysis will only have to be done for a short period of time until that patient's renal function recovers.
If a patient suffers from acute kidney failure, it can sometimes be difficult to determine when to start dialysis. For this reason, doctors have identified a number of different situations when the therapy should be performed. If patients have symptoms due to high blood levels of uric acid, a substance usually filtered into the urine by the kidney, they should receive dialysis; symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, seizures, confusion, lethargy, or a sharp chest pain resulting from a buildup of fluid around the heart. Patients who have severe abnormalities in the levels of different minerals in their blood are also often candidates for acute renal dialysis. Having an excessive amount of fluid circulating in the body as a result of acute kidney failure is another indication to perform this procedure.
Although the most common uses for renal dialysis are to treat chronic kidney disease and acute kidney failure, sometimes it can be used for other purposes. It can filter out a number of ingested species such as methanol, lithium, aspirin, and ethylene glycol. This can be a life-saving measure in the cases of overdose or intoxication with these substances.