What you need to know about dialysis in children

So far, we have shared information on this blog related to what kidneys are and what happens when they stop working in the way they should. In most articles, we have talked about symptoms and treatments in adults. But, what happens when instead of an adult, the one who is suffering from a kidney failure is a child? In this article, Joe Cosgrove will talk about renal failure in children and how to treat it through dialysis.

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Image courtesy of Rowan at Flickr.com

As a matter of fact, we know that the kidneys are these bean-shaped organs located on the sides of the lower back. No matter your age, they will always be about the size of a fist if they are perfectly healthy. Their job is to filter the blood and get rid of waste through urine. This job is not likely to stop at any minute and turns out to be literally vital for any other part of the body. Actually, when kidneys fail, there are many different symptoms that make it really easy to identify that something is not working right inside the human body.

Related: 10 Signs Of Kidney Disease You Need To Know.

What is kidney failure and what to do when it happens in children?

Kidney failure is quite a simple concept to explain, it means that something is not working well in our kidneys. Reasons to these can be very different, maybe be you got a kidney stone, you have some type of deficit in minerals or you developed different diseases that triggered a kidney malfunction. Despite the reason for the kidney failure, the concept remains intact: your kidneys are not working in the way they should.

In Children, when the kidney fails there is little that can be done. Since they are at a developing stage, any internal organ miss function can rapidly lead to death. This is why treating a kidney disease with a transplant is vastly popular among children. Often, doctors don’t even wait until the child is unhealthy and choose to do the transplant right away before other organs start to fail. However, when transplants cannot be done right away, dialysis takes place in order to keep children healthy.

As we also have said before in this blog, dialysis in the process of doing what kidneys do (filter waste and fluids from the body) artificially. In children, this process is used before the kidneys fail completely and sometimes needs to take place after a kidney transplant when the organ is not responding or fails.

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Image courtesy of Vinny Carpenter at Flickr.com

What are the different types of dialysis available for children?

Sometimes, when having a kidney transplantation is not as easy as one may think, children need to go through dialysis. This usually happens when finding a matching kidney becomes a difficult task or when the child has an infectious disease that needs to be treated before the transplant takes place. Nevertheless, no matter the reason why a child may need to go through dialysis, there are two different alternatives for the process that can be used.

1 . Hemodialysis: This process uses a filter to remove any type of waste and extra fluid from the child’s blood. A machine makes the process possible and the child needs to stay plugged to a pump for as long as the blood is completely processed and cleaned. Through this process, the right balance of minerals in the blood is kept.

As this process can take some time and children tend to be easily distracted, it is recommended to perform this process at home or at a dialysis center at least three times a week. Sometimes, if the child is very small, dialysis can take place daily. The process lasts from 3 to 5 hours and it is recommended for children to do other things while it takes place, such as read, write, watch TV or do the homework.

Parents need to be aware of the complications and implications of this type of process, keeping in mind that most children need a couple months to adapt to the process. Helping children maintaining a proper diet and liquid consumption is one of the most important tasks parents should take care of.

2 . Peritoneal Dialysis: Different to hemodialysis, this type of procedure uses the lining of the abdominal cavity to filter the blood. A salt solution is used and introduced to the abdominal cavity so it can soak and filter any waste or extra fluid from the child’s body. Once the solution did its part, it is drained once again from the body. This process never stops, since the abdomen needs to be constantly filled and drained in order to keep the blood clean.

A surgeon is the one in charge of putting the catheter inside the child’s body and while the process takes place, the children may need to spend the night at the hospital. Placing a new catheter should be done after 10-20 days and may need to have one or two cuffs so the tissue in the abdominal cavity can grow in a secure place.

Peritoneal dialysis in children may be ambulatory and take place at any clean place at least four times a day (keeping the solution inside the body at night) or it can be continuous cycling, which means that a machine called a cycler will be the one in charge to fill and empty the fluid from the abdomen at least 3 – 5 times per day. Most parents can do these type of processes at home after a training period takes time.

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