Patient Education

What is end stage renal disease (ESRD)?

When your kidneys no longer work well enough to keep you healthy you have End Stage Renal Disease, or “ESRD” for short. This is called Chronic Renal Failure, or “CRF” for short.

Why do kidneys stop working?

Diabetes High blood pressure Chronic kidney infections Severe injury Birth defects Certain drugs Other kidney disease.

What do normal kidneys do?

Remove extra water. Remove waste products. Balance chemicals in the body. Help control blood pressure. Help make red blood cells. Help build strong bones.

What happens when kidneys fail?

The kidneys are not able to clean waste products from the blood. Waste products build up in the blood causing you to feel bad. This build up of waste products is called uremia.

What are some signs of kidney failure?

Extreme tiredness. Nausea and vomiting. Shortness of breath. Difficulty sleeping. Swelling in the hands, face and feet. High blood pressure.

What can be done if my kidneys fail?

Dialysis and kidney transplantation are procedures to replace lost kidney function. Diet and medication are important treatments for kidney failure. The dietitian will tell you what foods to eat to help you feel better. The doctor will order medicine to help with problems such as blood pressure control and water removal.

What about a transplant?

A kidney transplant places a healthy kidney from another person into your body. Transplants can come from living or non-living (cadaveric) donors. The new kidney is placed in your lower abdomen. Most people need to be hospitalized for 1-2 weeks after their transplant.


A successful transplant can help return you to a state of good health. However, transplant is a treatment, not a cure! You will still need to take medicine and see a doctor regularly. You may need to wait for a kidney to be available. A donor kidney must be a “match” for your body. Not everyone is a candidate for a transplant. Your doctor will need to make a complete medical evaluation.

What are my dialysis treatment options?

Dialysis is a procedure used to treat kidney failure. Dialysis does some of the things a normal kidney does, such as: Remove extra water from the body. Remove the waste products that have built up in the blood. There are two kinds of dialysis – hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.


Uses an “artificial kidney”, or dialyzer, and a machine. Blood is pumped through the dialyzer. Extra water and waste products are removed. Then the blood is pumped back into your body. About a cup of blood is outside your body during this procedure.


Access Blood flow to the machine usually comes from a vein in your arm or leg. A surgical procedure is done to change a vein into a fistula or graft. This fistula or graft is called a blood access. Needles are inserted during the dialysis treatment to take blood to the machine and dialyzer. If you have problems with your fistula or graft, or if you need to start dialysis right away, a temporary tube may be put into a vein near your chest or neck for blood access.

How is hemodialysis done?

Hemodialysis is done 3 times a week. Each treatment lasts 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Dialysis center treatments. Nurses and technicians do your treatment in a dialysis clinic. Home dialysis treatments. You and a partner learn the procedure and do the treatments at home.

Things to consider about hemodialysis

You will have days off dialysis when you can do other activities. You will be able to see and talk to nurses and doctors often. There are many clinics and hospitals that offer hemodialysis treatment. You will need to follow a strict diet to remain healthy. Some people experience headaches, cramps, or nausea during the treatments. You will need to check your blood access every day for signs of infection or clotting.