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What is Hemodialysis and its Function?

What is Hemodialysis and its Function?

Hemodialysis is a kidney replacement therapy used when the kidneys are failing. This article will delve into the definition of hemodialysis, its essential functions, and how it works to maintain the health and well-being of patients with kidney failure.


Defining Hemodialysis


Hemodialysis is a treatment method primarily used for patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or acute kidney injury when the kidneys are no longer able to naturally filter the blood. This procedure mimics the function of healthy kidneys by removing metabolic waste, regulating electrolyte balance, and maintaining proper fluid levels in the body. Hemodialysis can be performed in a hospital or a specialized dialysis center, typically under the supervision of skilled medical professionals.

The Essential Functions of Hemodialysis


Waste Removal: The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products, such as urea and creatinine, from the blood. However, when the kidneys fail, hemodialysis becomes one of the essential methods to eliminate these harmful substances from the body.


Fluid Balance: Healthy kidneys help regulate the body's fluid levels by adjusting urine production. In patients with kidney failure, excessive fluid can accumulate causing edema and potentially leading to heart problems. Hemodialysis plays a crucial role in removing excess fluid from the body, helping maintain proper fluid balance and preventing complications associated with fluid overload. 


Electrolyte Balance: Kidneys are responsible for maintaining the balance of various electrolytes in the body, including sodium, potassium, and calcium. When these levels become imbalanced due to renal failure, hemodialysis can help restore the normal electrolyte levels and prevent severe consequences like irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness.

How Hemodialysis Works


Hemodialysis involves passing the patient's blood through a dialyzer, which is also called artificial kidney, to perform these essential functions. To make this possible, the patient's blood is first diverted from their body, flowing into the dialyzer through a vascular access, such as an arteriovenous fistula, hemodialysis catheter or graft. Inside the dialyzer, the blood flows through the inside of the dialysis membrane and the dialysate flows through the outside of the dialysis membrane to achieve the exchange of substances in the blood and dialysate, that is, metabolic waste and excess water from the blood side to the dialysate, and also maintain the electrolyte balance. The clean blood is then returned to the patient's body through the vascular access. 


Hemodialysis treatment is typically performed three times per week, with each session lasting about four hours. The frequency and duration of the sessions may vary depending on the patient's needs and their overall health condition.


Hemodialysis helps improve the quality of life and prolongs the survival of individuals with kidney failure. To ensure optimal outcomes, hemodialysis should occur at regular intervals as prescribed by healthcare professionals, allowing patients to lead fuller, healthier lives.