Everything You Should Know About Dialysis

Your kidneys are two powerhouse organs located in your lower back region on either side of your spine. They work nonstop filtering your blood and removing toxins, which they then pass along to your bladder so you can urinate them away. 

If your kidneys falter or fail, the situation can become life-threatening very quickly. Fortunately, there’s a treatment called dialysis that can take over the kidneys’ function for you. 

At Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates, our specialists offer dialysis to patients at our New York locations in Pomona, Goshen, Fishkill, and the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, as well as Englewood, New Jersey. 

Stages of chronic kidney disease

We measure the performance of your kidneys by testing your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). To do this, we consider the results of a blood creatinine test along with your sex, age, gender, and body size. This helps us determine how well your kidneys are doing their job. 

Here are the graduating stages of kidney failure:

  • Stage 1, eGFR 90% or higher
  • Stage 2, eGFR 60%-80%
  • Stage 3a, eGFR 45%-59%
  • Stage 3b, eGFR 30%-44%
  • Stage 4, eGFR 15%-29%
  • Stage 5, eGFR less than 15%

As you age, your eGFR naturally declines a bit, but for most healthy adults, the number should stay above 90%. If your eGFR drops below 15%, you have severe kidney failure and need dialysis to filter your blood for you.

Causes of kidney failure

There’s no single cause of kidney failure. Several conditions, even multiple factors, could be the culprits, including (but not limited to):

  • Blood flow problems from heart disease, severe burns, allergies, liver infection
  • Urination problems from certain cancers, enlarged prostate, blood clots, kidney stones
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and scleroderma
  • Diabetes
  • Substance abuse
  • Chemotherapy
  • Trauma

If your kidney failure stems from insufficient blood flow and that condition is reversible, it’s possible to restore your kidney function. But in many cases, the damage is too severe, and you need to rely on dialysis permanently.

The purpose of dialysis

When your kidneys stop working, dialysis bridges the gap with three main goals:

  • Filter out toxins, waste, salt, and excess water from your blood
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Regulate potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate levels

Everyone is different, but you can expect to undergo dialysis about three times a week. Sessions typically take about four hours to complete, but you can relax and read, listen to music, or use your laptop during your appointment. 

In some cases, dialysis causes blood pressure to drop a bit, which may make you feel lightheaded or nauseous for a short time.

How dialysis works

Dialysis, also called hemodialysis, allows your blood to flow out of your body, through an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer), then back into your body. To accomplish this, we need to create an access port. 

We may use a section of artery from your leg and join it to a vein in your arm to provide a suitable port, called a fistula. If your veins are too small, we may implant a soft plastic tube as a graft between the vein and artery. 

If you only need dialysis temporarily, you might be a good candidate for a catheter in your neck. 

When you’re on dialysis, we’re on your team. We monitor your access port and make sure you don’t experience any complications, such as infection.

Dialysis doesn’t cure your chronic kidney disease, but it does help you live with it. You can go on to lead a normal life, as long as you maintain a healthy diet, keep up with your dialysis appointments, and avoid too much physical activity, like heavy lifting. 

If you have early stages of kidney disease or end stage failure, our team of vascular specialists can help you understand your dialysis options and get you started on the right treatment if and when you need it. 

To learn more or schedule an appointment, use our online booking tool or call the Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Vascular Associates location nearest you.