Dialysis is a medical treatment for someone who’s kidneys no longer work. Dialysis can take over the job of filtering your blood. A person is hooked up to an artificial filtering machine that removes waste and fluid from the blood. With hemodialysis, a person’s blood travels through tubes to a machine which removes extra fluids and waste. Once the blood is cleaned, the machine sends the blood back to the person through another tube. This process usually takes about 4 hours for kids and has o be done 3 times a week, usually in a dialysis center. Some centers are training adults to perform their own treatments at home.
Some children receive dialysis through a catheter. This is a small Y shaped plastic tube which has been placed in the chest by a surgeon to allow the patient to be connected to a longer tube to the dialysis machine. Other older, larger children, usually older than 18, can have a fistula or graft created in the larger blood vessels. Needles must be placed in this type of access in 2 places for every treatment. Numbing cream can be used to reduce the discomfort of the needle sticks. This type of access which is under the skin allows kids to bath and swim, while those with catheters must be careful to not get them wet.
The most common used type of dialysis for children is called peritoneal. This type uses a machine to put cleansing solution in the person’s belly through a surgically placed tube. Each night the solution enters and exits about 8 to 12 times. As blood flows naturally through blood vessels in the belly, extra fluid and waste products in the blood seep out into the fluid in the belly. The fluid in the belly cleans the blood and rebalances the blood chemistry. There are a few different types of peritoneal dialysis. One overnight, while sleeping and one that is used several times throughout the day. The fluid is put in the belly and the patient can walk around and a few hours later return and have it drained out and refilled. This process is usually several times a day and often an exchange, as it is called needs to occur also at night. Some kids sleep through this type of dialysis, others find it uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Beginning dialysis is very challenging for children of all ages and their parents. Many kids starting dialysis feel sad, scared, angry or nervous. Dialysis can sometimes disrupt activities that kids have planned. Often times kids don’t feel as strong as they once did and they may tire more quickly. Following treatments plans that their doctors have set up and following the renal diet can help. Boredom while dialysis is very common. Kids can’t run around or leave the room while they are receiving most types of dialysis. Television, music, videos, video games, books, puzzles, talking on cell phones or doing homework are ways to pass the time. Many children sleep to help pass time as often they don’t feel the best due to blood pressure dropping or cramping from the fluid being removed.
One doctor put it this way to kids who need dialysis. “Dialysis is a part of your life, but it isn’t your life or who you are.”
Hemo Dailysis Peritoneal Dialysis