The kidneys play key roles in body function, not only by filtering the blood and getting rid of waste products, but also by balancing levels of electrolyte levels in the body, controlling blood pressure, and stimulating the production of red blood cells. The kidneys are located in the abdomen toward the back, normally one on each side of the spine. They get their blood supply through the renal arteries directly from the aorta and send blood back to the heart via the renal veins to the vena cava. (The term “renal” is derived from the Latin name for kidney.) The kidneys have the ability to monitor the amount of body fluid, the concentrations of electrolytes like sodium and potassium, and the acid-base balance of the body. They filter waste products of body metabolism, like urea from protein metabolism and uric acid from DNA breakdown. Two waste products in the blood can be measured: blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine (Cr). When blood flows to the kidney, sensors within the kidney decide how much water to excrete as urine, along with what concentration of electrolytes. For example, if a person is dehydrated from exercise or from an illness, the kidneys will hold onto as much water as possible and the urine becomes very concentrated. When adequate water is present in the body, the urine is much more dilute, and the urine becomes clear. This system is controlled by renin, a hormone produced in the kidney that is part of the fluid and blood pressure regulation systems of the body. Kidneys are also the source of erythropoietin in the body, a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells. Special cells in the kidney monitor the oxygen concentration in blood. If oxygen levels fall, erythropoietin levels rise and the body starts to manufacture more red blood cells. After the kidneys filter blood, the urine is excreted through the ureter, a thin tube that connects it to the bladder. It is then stored in the bladder awaiting urination, when the bladder sends the urine out of the body through the urethra.
The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood. Dialysis is a procedure that is a substitute for many of the normal duties of the kidneys. The kidneys are two organs located on either side of the back of the abdominal cavity. Dialysis can allow individuals to live productive and useful lives, even though their kidneys no longer work adequately. In the Netherlands, there are over 6.000 people who use dialysis techniques on an ongoing basis. Dialysis helps the body by performing the functions of failed kidneys. The kidney has many roles. An essential job of the kidney is to regulate the body’s fluid balance. It does this by adjusting the amount of urine that is excreted on a daily basis. On hot days, the body sweats more. Thus, less water needs to be excreted through the kidneys. On cold days, the body sweats less. Thus, urine output needs to be greater in order to maintain the proper balance within the body. It is the kidney’s job to regulate fluid balance by adjusting urine output. Another major duty of the kidney is to remove the waste products that the body produces throughout the day. As the body functions, the cells use energy. The operation of the cells produces waste products that must be removed from the body. When these waste products are not removed adequately, they build up in the body. An elevation of waste products, as measured in the blood, is called “azotemia.” When waste products accumulate they, cause a sick feeling throughout the body called “uremia.”
There are two main types of dialysis: “hemodialysis” and “peritoneal dialysis.” Hemodialysis uses a special type of filter to remove excess waste products and water from the body. Peritoneal dialysis uses a fluid that is placed into the patient’s stomach cavity through a special plastic tube to remove excess waste products and fluid from the body.
Hemodialysis uses a machine filter called a dialyzer or artificial kidney to remove excess water and salt, to balance the other electrolytes in the body, and to remove waste products of metabolism. Blood is removed from the body and flows through tubing into the machine, where it passes next to a filter membrane. A specialized chemical solution (dialysate) flows on the other side of the membrane. The dialysate is formulated to draw impurities from the blood through the filter membrane. Blood and dialysate never touch in the artificial kidney machine. For this type of dialysis, access to the blood vessels needs to be surgically created so that large amounts of blood can flow into the machine and back to the body. Surgeons can build a fistula, a connection between a large artery and vein in the body, usually in the arm, that causes a large amount of blood flow into the vein. This makes the vein larger and its walls thicker so that it can tolerate repeated needle sticks to attach tubing from the body to the machine. Since it takes many weeks for a fistula to mature enough to be used, significant planning is required if hemodialysis is to be considered as an option. If the kidney failure happens acutely and there is no time to build a fistula, special catheters may be inserted into the larger blood vessels of the arm, leg, or chest. These catheters may be left in place for up to three weeks. In some diseases, the need for dialysis will be temporary, but if the expectation is that dialysis will continue for a prolonged period of time, these catheters act as a bridge until a fistula can be planned, placed, and matured. Dialysis treatments normally occur three times a week and last a few hours at a time. Most commonly, patients travel to an outpatient center to have dialysis, but home dialysis therapy is becoming an option for some.
Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of the abdominal cavity as the dialysis filter to rid the body of waste and to balance electrolyte levels. A catheter is placed in the abdominal cavity through the abdominal wall by a surgeon and is expected to remain there for the long-term. The dialysis solution is then dripped in through the catheter and left in the abdominal cavity for a few hours and then is drained out. In that time, waste products leech from the blood normally flowing through the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). There are benefits and complications for each type of dialysis. Not every patient can choose which type he or she would prefer. The treatment decision depends on the patient’s illness and their past medical history along with other issues. Usually, the nephrologist (kidney specialist) will have a long discussion with the patient and family to decide what will be the best option available. Dialysis is lifesaving. Without it, patients whose kidneys no longer function would die relatively quickly due to electrolyte abnormalities and the buildup of toxins in the blood stream. Patients may live many years with dialysis but other underlying and associated illnesses often are the cause of death.
A venous catheter used for hemodialysis (dialysis of the blood). A hemodialysis catheter is a type of central venous catheter. It may be inserted into the subclavian, internal jugular, or femoral veins. Subclavian catheters generally may be used for 2 to 6 weeks. Hemodialysis catheters are often for relatively short-term use because of an acute need for dialysis or because chronic dialysis is just starting. Long-term access for hemodialysis may be provided by subcutaneous arteriovenous fistulas in which an artery (the radial artery) is surgically anastomosed (connected) to a vein (the cephalic vein). However, after this procedure is done, it takes 6 to 8 weeks for the forearm veins to dilate and arterialize to be suitable for repeated puncture and hence for long- term hemodialysis. ====
Fistula — the gold standard access
Experts generally agree that fistulas are the best type of vascular access. Low rates of complications, clotting and infection all contribute to the fistula’s reputation as the “gold standard” of vascular access.