Kidney Dialysis Information Centre
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Risks and Side Effects During Kidney Dialysis
It's important to remember that without dialysis, many patients' only hope is a transplant. The risks associated with refusing dialysis are MUCH worse than those due to dialysis. Rather than panic at these potential problems, speak to your own doctor for a fuller explanation. No web site should be a substitute for proper medical advice!
Our affiliate bookstore has a section on dialysis and renal failure in general, and some of these books give much more information.
Bleeding from the Access Point
As dialysis is an invasive technique, the area surrounding the access point can be damaged and bleeding can occur. You should see your doctor if this occurs.
Dialysis patients are at risk of a sudden drop in blood pressure (hypotension), due to the stress the cardiovascular system is under from regular hemodialysis. However this can be controlled by medication.
As mentioned on other pages, dialysis patients are generally more susceptible to infection. The access point should be kept clean, and any sign of infection (redness, itching, or other problems) watched for. Peritonitis with its associated flu-like symptoms, is also a possibility. Hence the importance of cleanliness and good general hygiene. Patients on Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD) handle their catheter four or five times a day, and thus must take greater care to avoid infection. Those on night-time peritoneal dialysis with a cycler unit handle the catheter less often but must still take care to avoid contamination. Peritonitis can cause fever, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Patients may notice their dialysis solution looks cloudy. Treating peritonitis quickly is the key to stopping widespread infection.
Cramps, Nausea and Headaches
These flu-like symptons are sometimes experienced by hemodialysis patients. The water quality in the dialyzer, the composition of the dialyser itself, the dialysate composition, and the rate of filteration can all cause problems, which can be reduced by adjusting the dialysis perscription. However, do remember that these are also symptoms of peritonitis.
We have a separate article on muscle cramps during dialysis.
This is another possible problem when on peritoneal dialysis. The abdominal wall muscles can be weakened by the catheter. During dialysis the solution present on the abdominal cavity presses against the abdominal wall. This can lead to a tear and organs can be pushed through the tear. Surgery to repair this is the only solution. Patients should therefore avoid undue extertions which may strain the abdominal wall muscles.
There is a slight risk of contracting hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to the the exposure of blood during the treatment. Vacination against the B strain is generally recommended. While HIV is a risk in theory, one only person in the US (a staff member, not a patient) has been documented as contracting this disease in the last six years or so. Strict standards are imposed in dialysis centres which minimise the risks considerably.
This will almost certainly be detected via the normal blood tests conducted on dialysis patients. There are a variety of vital electrolytes (ionic species) in the blood that control a number of bodily process and this is too general an area for discussion here.
The red blood cell volume in dialysis patients (especially hemodialysis patients) is often lower then normal. This is due to reduced levels of the hormone erythropoietin, which is produced by the kidneys and regulates red blood cell production. Medication to treat the anemia is commonly used by dialysis patients. See the Anemia section in the main menu for more information.
During hemodialysis, there is a slight risk of getting hepatitis B and hepatitis C. But you can be vacinated against hepatitis B, something which is generally recommended to most patients on hemodialysis. Due to the strict standards enforced to reduce infections in modern hemodialysis centres, however, the chance of being infected is very small.
Let's finish this section the way we started it - no web site is a substitute for proper medical advice from your own doctor. We are here to supplement, not to replace your medical advisor.