Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis: Advantages and Disadvantages

Dialysis is the procedure that substitutes many of the normal functions of the kidneys. Healthy kidneys filter the blood removing excess fluid, minerals and waste. The kidneys also produce hormones that keep our bones strong and our blood healthy. When the kidneys fail, harmful waste builds up in our body, the blood pressure can rise, and the body may retain excess fluid and not produce enough red blood cells. When this happens, you need treatment to replace the function of your kidneys.  

This is the moment when dialysis is required in order to help sick kidneys do those functions they are not being able to perform.  Many people in this situation have had to decide which of the two possibilities of dialysis they are going to choose: the peritoneal or hemodialysis. Now if that is the case, how do you choose well when facing such important decision?

First things first: what is the difference between the two types of Dialysis?

Both forms of dialysis, hemodialysis and peritoneal, are used to treat kidney failure. However they are different.  

The process of hemodialysis requires the placement of a special access, a plastic tube placed between an artery and a vein in the arm or leg.  The machine for hemodialysis (dialyzer) is connected to the patient through the help of this catheter and is in charge of filtering the blood, wash it in a special solution that removes the fluids and waste substances and then returns it to the patient’s bloodstream.

On the other hand, peritoneal dialysis is performed by the surgical placement of a soft tube (peritoneal dialysis catheter), and hollow in the lower abdomen near the navel. After the placement of the tube a special fluid (dialysate) is flushed into the peritoneal cavity (abdomen) and left for a certain time determined by the doctor. The fluid acts absorbing waste and toxins through the peritoneum. After the absorption it is necessary to drain the fluid.

If you want to know more about “dialysis common myths” read the article by Joe Crosgrove by clicking here

The Stethoscope_joe cosgrove_medicine_Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis

Image courtesy of Alex Proimos at Flickr.com

Advantages and disadvantages

All people respond differently to similar situations and treatments. What can be a negative factor for some might be positive to others. The following list of advantages and disadvantages is by no means exhaustive, but it provides a general idea of what to expect when dealing with the different types of dialysis.


Advantages Disadvantages
  • Facilities are widely available.
  • There are trained professionals who will be with you all the time.
  • You can get to know to other patients dealing with the same struggles.
  • Shorter amount of time and fewer days a week.
  • You don’t have to do it yourself.
  • It can be done at home. This option can give the patient more flexibility and time with loved ones.
  • You can be in contact with other people ensuring emotional support.
  • Treatments are scheduled by the center and you must travel there to receive treatment.
  • This treatment requires a stricter diet and increased fluid restriction.
  • You may experience mood swings more frequently.
  • It could take a few hours before you feel better after the treatment.
  • It can cause problems such a slow blood pressure and blood clots in the dialysis access.
  • If done at home, it requires training for the patient and at least another person.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Advantages Disadvantages
  • You will learn how to do your treatment at home according to your schedule as long as you do it as it is required.
  • Your autonomy gives you more freedom of doing it whenever you need to, even when traveling.
  • You don’t need to go to a hospital or a dialysis center.
  • You can do it while you sleep.
  • It doesn’t have many dietary restrictions.
  • It doesn’t use needles.
  • It may interrupt your daily activities.
  • It is a continuous treatment, and must be carried out seven days a week.
  • The procedure might be hard for some people.
  • It increases the risk of an infection (peritonitis).

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