Peritoneal Dialysis

Dialysis is a treatment to filter the blood and remove waste products when the kidneys are no longer functioning properly. During hemodialysis, the patient's blood circulates through a machine to be cleansed before re-entering the body. This procedure takes place in a medical setting under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Peritoneal dialysis, on the other hand, is an advanced form of dialysis, allowing patients to have portable treatments -- at home, at work or while traveling. This is possible because peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of the abdomen, known as the peritoneal membrane to filter the blood instead of a machine.

Reasons for Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis is suitable for some patients with kidney failure. Kidney failure may occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney inflammation, known as glomerulonephritis
  • Multiple cysts in the kidneys or polycystic kidney disease

Benefits of Peritoneal Dialysis

In addition to the mobility that peritoneal dialysis allows patients, it may also provide the following benefits:

  • Fewer medications
  • Less restrictive diet
  • No use of needles
  • Less fluctuation of fluid balance within the body

While peritoneal dialysis affords greater mobility and independence for those able who employ it, it is not appropriate for all patients with renal failure.

Obstacles to Peritoneal Dialysis

There are instances when peritoneal dialysis may not be appropriate and patients must undergo hemodialysis. These include:

  • Extensive surgical scars in the abdomen
  • A large abdominal hernia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or recurrent diverticulitis
  • Limited ability for self-care and lack of care giving

The Peritoneal Dialysis Process


To prepare for peritoneal dialysis treatment, a catheter is surgically implanted in the abdomen. The placement of the catheter is done under general anesthesia and may be performed as open surgery or laparoscopically. With one end inserted in the abdomen and the other end protruding through the skin, the catheter allows the dialysis solution, known as dialysate, to flow freely in and out of the body with no need for repeated incisions.

At-Home Procedure

After the catheter has been implanted by a doctor, patients are able to perform the dialysis treatments independently. They are able to insert the dialysate into the abdomen through the catheter. After a prescribed period of time, the solution and any waste products are drained into a sterile collection bag. This process is done on a continual daily basis. While the procedure is performed independently, patients using the peritoneal dialysis method remain under the supervised care of doctor.

Risks of Peritoneal Dialysis

Dialysis is a necessary procedure for many people who are suffering from kidney failure or kidney-related problems. While it is a beneficial health treatment, the risks of peritoneal dialysis may include:

  • Infection in the abdominal cavity or at the site of the catheter insertion
  • Weight gain or high blood sugar because the dialysate contains sugar
  • Hernia because of abdominal distention

Additional Resources