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What Is Inpatient Dialysis?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Inpatient dialysis is a process performed on patients with kidney failure while they are in the hospital. The kidneys play a major role in removing toxins from the body, so in people whose kidneys are not functioning properly, dialysis is often necessary. There are a number of different forms of dialysis, but they are all performed to help rid the body of toxins. Depending on the extent of the kidney damage, dialysis may be performed at home or on an inpatient basis in the hospital.

The kidneys are two, bean-shaped organs which are involved in the removal of waste products and excess fluid from the blood. These waste products are then transferred to the bladder where they will be excreted in the urine. Should the kidneys become damaged or diseased for some reason these toxins and fluids may build up, causing severe problems. Kidney function is monitored by the doctor by measuring the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR). Usually if these levels fall below 15, dialysis is recommended.

Dialysis can be performed in an acute setting or chronically. Kidney disease is often chronic and may worsen over time, necessitating dialysis when it becomes severe. In the case of acute kidney failure, which can occur due to numerous causes, inpatient dialysis will be performed until the kidney function improves sufficiently.

There are two kinds of inpatient dialysis, both of which may also be performed at home after sufficient training. The first is hemodialysis, during which blood is removed from the body and passes through the dialysis machine, which removes the toxins. The "cleaned" blood then flows back into the body. The other form is peritoneal dialysis, during which dialysate fluid is placed into the abdomen and toxins pass from the blood vessels in the peritoneum, a membrane surrounding the organs, into the fluid, which is then removed.

When undergoing inpatient dialysis it is necessary for the patient to remain still throughout the procedure. Depending on the type of dialysis and the severity of the renal dysfunction, the procedure may take from one to ten hours. In some cases, continuous inpatient dialysis may be performed. The whole procedure will be overseen by a dialysis nurse, who has done specialized training in performing inpatient dialysis.

The dialysis nurse will not only make sure that procedure runs smoothly but also check that the patient is fine throughout. Some people may experience adverse effects during dialysis, including dizziness, nausea and muscle cramps. Should any adverse effects be experienced, the nurse should be called immediately.

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