Explore how peritoneal dialysis works and how treatment at home can let you maintain many of the activities you enjoy in your current lifestyle.
How does peritoneal dialysis work?
During peritoneal treatment, a fluid called dialysate is delivered to your abdomen through a small, surgically inserted tube called a catheter. The dialysate removes toxins and fluids from your blood. After several hours (called dwell time), it’s drained back out through the catheter and is replaced by fresh dialysate. This cycle of filling and draining your abdomen with dialysate is called an exchange.
Explore the option that’s comfortable for you
One of the benefits of peritoneal dialysis at home is the flexibility it provides. You can set your own treatment schedule that suits your lifestyle.
There are two options for peritoneal dialysis at home. Talk to your care team about which one is right for you:
Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) is done by hand. This means that you drain your dialysate by connecting an empty plastic bag to your catheter and letting gravity draw the fluid out. Then you attach a new bag of dialysate. Here are the specifics of CAPD:
Exchanges need to be done four times a day, every day.
Each exchange takes about 30–40 minutes.
This option can be done almost anywhere that is clean and dry.
Automated peritoneal dialysis (APD) can be done on your own schedule. Most people choose to do their treatment overnight while sleeping. During a treatment, your catheter tubing is connected to a machine called a cycler that delivers and drains fluid for you. Here are the specifics of APD:
The cycler does three-to-five fluid exchanges over an eight-to-ten-hour period.
You start each morning with fresh dialysate in your abdomen.
The cycler is small enough to fit on most bedside tables and is portable, so you can take it with you while traveling.
Peritoneal dialysis requirements
Starting dialysis is a big decision that can greatly benefit your kidney health. If you’re interested in peritoneal dialysis, you will need the following:
A trusted person to assist you on days you aren’t feeling well. One of the benefits of peritoneal dialysis is that you can do it on your own, but it’s nice to have someone to help you if needed.
One to two weeks for you and your dialysis partner to attend training. It’s important that you both know how to do exchanges, prevent infection, log your treatments and properly use the cycler. This is done in a dialysis center with a nurse.
A clean, dry, well-lit place for treatments and equipment storage. This area should remain off-limits to pets.
Two to three weeks before starting treatment, you will need to undergo a minor surgery to place the catheter in your abdomen. Most people are able to go home the same day of surgery, but you will not be allowed to shower for 10 to 14 days. This is to keep your bandaged area clean and dry. You’ll also need to clean the area daily and take great care to prevent infection.
Even when the catheter is fully healed, you won’t be able to swim or soak in a tub, but it shouldn’t prevent you from most daily activities. It’s also easily hidden under your clothes since it’s only about the width of a pencil.
Like all life changes, it can take some time to get used to being on peritoneal dialysis. Some people feel bloated in the beginning and a bit uncomfortable, but as time goes on, you’ll likely experience more energy. Another potential benefit is the possibility of relaxing rules about eating and drinking. However, keep in mind that dialysate does contain extra calories, so you’ll still have to be mindful to avoid weight gain. But all in all, many people report that peritoneal dialysis allows them to continue to live, work and travel with relative ease.
Learn more about peritoneal dialysis, including how it works and pros and cons to be aware of.
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