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When do patients require dialysis?
Patients usually require dialysis when the waste products in their body become so high that they start to become sick from them. The level of the waste products usually builds up slowly. Doctors measure several blood chemical levels to help decide when dialysis is necessary. The two major blood chemical levels that are measured are the “creatinine level” and the “blood urea nitrogen” (BUN) level. As these two levels rise, they are indicators of the decreasing ability of the kidneys to cleanse the body of waste products.
Doctors use a urine test, the “creatinine clearance,” to measure the level of kidney function. The patient saves urine in a special container for one full day. The waste products in the urine and in the blood are estimated by measuring the creatinine. By comparing the blood and urine level of this substance, the doctor has an accurate idea of how well the kidneys are working. This result is called the creatinine clearance. Usually, when the creatinine clearance falls to 10-12 cc/minute, the patient needs dialysis.
The doctor also uses other indicators of the patient’s status to decide about the need for dialysis. If the patient is experiencing a major inability to rid the body of excess water, or is complaining of problems with the heart, lungs, or stomach, or difficulties with taste or sensation in their legs, dialysis may be indicated even though the creatinine clearance has not fallen to the 10-12 cc/minute level.
Hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis have been done since the mid 1940’s. Dialysis, as a regular treatment, was begun in 1960 and is now a standard treatment all around the world. CAPD began in 1976. Thousands of patients have been helped by these treatments.
Dialysis does some of the work of healthy kidneys, but it does not cure your kidney disease. You will need to have dialysis treatments for your whole life unless you are able to get a kidney transplant.