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Treating end-stage renal disease

Two Black women sit on a bench.

When the kidneys can't do their job anymore, treatment is a literal life saver.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is the final stage of the progressive decline of the kidneys. It is also called kidney failure.

Without the filtering action of the kidneys, wastes and excess fluids are retained in the body. Necessary hormones and chemicals aren't produced.

ESRD treatment does the work the failed kidneys can no longer perform. Machines, chemicals and donor organs are recruited to do the kidneys' work. ESRD patients can't survive without these treatments.

There are three major treatment options for end-stage renal disease:


In hemodialysis, a machine draws your blood, cleans and filters it, and returns it to your body.

Hemodialysis can be done at home or at a dialysis center. It lasts several hours per treatment and is typically done three or more times a week, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Peritoneal dialysis

For this treatment, a cleansing solution called dialysate drips into your abdomen through a tube. The solution remains in your abdomen for several hours while it draws in wastes and toxins through the abdominal lining. The dirty solution is then drained from your abdomen, and the abdomen is refilled with fresh dialysate.

This treatment may also be done with a machine that automatically fills and drains the solution from your abdomen. The machine may be used at night while you sleep or at other regular times.

Kidney transplantation

In transplantation, you get a new kidney from a donor. If the transplant is successful, the new kidney will process and filter your blood as effectively as your own kidneys did when they were healthy.

You may go on a waiting list for a kidney donor, or a friend or family member can donate a kidney.

Reviewed 11/7/2022

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