Hemodialysis can be performed at home or in a dialysis center or hospital by trained healthcare professionals. A special type of access, called an arteriovenous (AV) fistula, is placed surgically, usually in the child’s arm. This involves joining an artery and a vein together.

An external, central, intravenous (I.V.) catheter may also be inserted, but is less common for long-term dialysis. After access has been established, the child will be connected to a large hemodialysis machine which drains the blood, bathes it in a special dialysate solution which removes waste substances and fluid, then returns it to the child’s bloodstream.

How Does it Work?

Hemodialysis is usually performed several times a week and lasts for four to five hours. Because of the length of time hemodialysis takes, it may be helpful to bring reading material, in order to pass the time during this procedure. During treatment the child can read, write, sleep, talk or watch T.V.

At home, hemodialysis is done with the help of a family member or friend. If parents choose to do home hemodialysis, they will receive special training.

Possible Complications

Possible complications of hemodialysis include muscle cramps and hypotension (sudden drop in blood pressure). Hypotension may cause a child to feel dizzy or weak, or sick to his stomach. Side effects are avoided by following the proper diet and taking medications, as prescribed by a doctor.

A dietitian will work with you to plan the child's meals according to physician orders. Usually children may:

  • Eat foods high in protein such as meat and chicken (animal proteins)
  • Have different potassium restrictions
  • Need to limit the amount they drink
  • Need to avoid salt
  • Need to limit foods containing mineral phosphorus (such as milk, cheese, nuts, dried beans and soft drinks)