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How Kidney Dialysis Works

November 21, 2008

Hundreds of thousands of Americans require kidney dialysis treatment.

The National Kidney Foundation estimates more than 20 million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease.

The dials and numbers on a dialysis machine may look confusing, but to a patient suffering from end-stage kidney disease, they have a life-saving purpose.

The machine takes over when the kidneys are no longer able to function properly.

"Dialysis takes out the excess poison levels and the excess fluids, the abnormal electrolytes that the kidneys normally clear," explained Dr. Edward Himot of the Georgia Kidney Associates.

Kidney specialist Dr. Edward Himot calls kidney dialysis an artificial intermittent treatment that can help prolong life for people with end-stage kidney disease. Dialysis may be recommended for patients with kidneys functioning at less than 10 to 15% capacity.

Experts say certain patients may require up to twelve hours of dialysis a week divided into three sessions. The treatment could be for the rest of their lives.

"If you have chronic kidney failure that's lapsing over years then the chances of having reversibility of you coming off dialysis is low," said Dr. Himot.

With an estimated 340,000 patients in the US receiving dialysis every year, that means centers like this one will always be busy.

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