The mildly-invasive procedure that helps end-stage renal disease patients

As previously described by Joe Cosgrove, there are several stages of renal disease; there are, in fact, different treatments for each patient. However, to all those patients currently undergoing hemodialysis after being diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, unrestrained and free blood circulation is practically the whole world for them.

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The process of hemodialysis, as previously mentioned in this blog is all about having a machine replace an individual’s kidneys. It mimics the human kidney function by pumping blood from an individual’s body all the way through a series of tubes, thusly cleansing it by getting rid of all the accumulated waste so that it can be returned to the body via an additional tube. This machine, also commonly referred to as a hemodialyzer, requires an additional procedure in order to create an easy access into the patient’s blood flow. When a vein or an artery develops a blockage while providing or carrying blood from or to an individual’s dialysis access area—which is usually a leg or an arm—, the process becomes less efficacious and successful, and, in turn, patients are more prone to experience all sorts of difficulties.

Nonetheless, an almost minimally invasive treatment for all those patients who require long-term management of vein access while undergoing dialysis has been developed. The procedure, also known as an angioplasty and stent, poses a very good opportunity for all those individuals who have to undergo the dreary effects of being on dialysis. It is, in short, the perfect opportunity to improve an individual’s quality of life.

In America, there are up to 470,000 people who have any sort or degree of irreversible kidney failure or end-stage renal disease. Most of them need as soon as possible either constant dialysis or, even worse, a transplant in order to survive. The vast majority, all those patients undergoing dialysis, require somewhat of an additional maintenance procedure: either an angioplasty and stent—the process being described in this article—, or a balloon angioplasty. They are required to undergo this additional procedure up to twice a year in order to keep the body with a proper and adequate blood flow to access the entry area.

The main issue relies on a physician’s ability to perform successful percutaneous interventional procedures, or, better said: any catheter-based interventional proceeding. If an individual is to improve their quality of life when undergoing this type of dialysis heavily relies on this. Prior to developing catheter-based procedures, individuals suffering from any degree of end-stage renal disease would come into operating rooms for different procedures such as open procedures that would leave patients weak, thusly making the healing process long and dreary, not to mention that patients would need to stay at the clinics. That was, of course, not the best case scenario for those individuals on dialysis thrice or four times a week. This serves as the most plausible and accurate explanation for such high dropout rates: it was quite easy, not to say understandable, for them to abandon the process.

Additionally, all of these catheter-based proceedings allow physicians to easily and seamlessly access any sort of blockage or narrowing (also known as stenosis) that could be reached through another process or routine operation. In the past, many of these blockages ended up being untreated due to the impossibility for a physician to access them; however, as a result, the scientific community decided to create a much better dialysis access with its own blood flow so that blockages would be left untreated.

This mildly-invasive procedure, in term of time, seems to be a much fitter choice for individuals under the aforementioned conditions. Patients require only a few hours of their time in the clinic. Not to mention that the outcome surpasses in adaptability the old-fashioned way: it is much more adaptable and adequate to an individual’s lifestyle. After several trials in the past, patients seem to be much happier in comparison with the resulting outcome of the old way.


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During the procedure, or, rather, during its course, physicians must accurately determined whether they are facing a blockage or a narrowing. This suggests that the procedure demands a lot of decision-making skills from a nephrologist. They must also determine the degree of the scenario they are facing: how severe it is and, most importantly, which seems to be the best way to open it and, moreover, keep it open. In addition, they also have to ponder what catheter they need or seem to be more adequate for that specific case; however, be that as it may, patients, regardless of complications—everything has got complications and physicians are required to avoid them—, the possibility of improving an individual’s quality of life is compelling enough for them to consider consulting with their primary nephrologist. Dialysis and renal disease are perhaps amongst the least satisfactory scenarios; however, there have been many developments and advancements regarding this topic: today, people have more than just one option to treat their conditions.

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What is it like to live with dialysis?


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In the United States at least 217,000 patients need to live with dialysis. This represents national costs for over $11 billion dollars every year. This procedure needs to take place when the kidneys are unable to filter fluids and their full capacity is lost. Sometimes, patients who need to live with dialysis have to do so because they were born with a kidney condition and they cannot afford a kidney transplant.

Statistically speaking, this is a dramatic situation for thousands of people in the United States. However, most patients seem to believe that dialysis is not such a terrible thing and they have adapted to a “new normal life”. But, what does it means to live with dialysis? In this article, Joe Cosgrove will share some details related to the way patients learn to have regular lives while they depend on dialysis to survive.

The Experience

First of all, when a patient decides that it is time to go under dialysis treatment it is because its kidneys are not able to do their job. This means that dialysis becomes the only alternative to survive. Keeping this in mind makes it easier and more motivating to people who need to go under treatment.

During a regular dialysis routine, the patient needs to come to the dialysis clinic and meet the nurse at the counter. Papers and forms will be filled out and a short checkup will take place. Since most patients have done this a thousand times, the process usually doesn’t take long.

After the checkup, the patient settles into one of the comfortable recliners inside the room where the process usually takes place. The patient may be the only one in the room or not, depending on the day and time it decides to go and get the treatment.

After settling, the patient will need to prop its left arm, allowing the technician to slip a couple needles into its blood vessels (close to the wrist). One of the needles is in charge of removing the blood and the other one is in charge of taking it back to the body. These needles are attached to plastic tubes that at the same time are connected to the dialysis machine.

For the next three hours, the needles will do their job and the patient’s blood will be filtered. All this is possible thanks to the dialysis machine that stands still next to the patient’s recliner. Most patients bring a book or spend this time watching a movie or a TV show on Netflix. Sometimes, this is even the perfect moment to take a nap.

Besides from the initial moment of the procedure, when the needles need to be stuck on your veins, the dialysis process doesn’t hurt. Sometimes patients may feel dazed and their blood pressure can drop. But, other than that, the process takes place in a comfortable way.


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Living with dialysis is supposed to make things easier for patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). However, the mortality rates in the United States remain to be considerably high compared to those in Japan or Europe since many patients choose to skip the procedure or don’t accept it to last for too many hours.

Related: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Time On Dialysis

How Dialysis Works

The best way to describe the dialysis process is as an artificial kidney. This means that dialysis should be able to do what your kidneys cannot do anymore. There are two different forms of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. At least 90% of the patients in the United States who live with dialysis choose to go under the hemodialysis treatment. This is the procedure that was described in the experience above.

When patients live with hemodialysis, their blood needs to be circulated outside of the body with the help of a hemodialysis device. This device cleanses the blood and then returns it back to the body of the patient.

Not everyone is a right candidate to get hemodialysis. This is why every patient needs to have the doctor’s approval before having an entrance or access (a minor surgery on the leg, arm or neck to access the blood vessels). This access is called fistula and the patient will need to keep it clean and usable for as long as it needs to go under dialysis treatment.

The fistula is something dialysis patients need to learn how to live with since it is the only way doctors have to access the blood in a fast and effective way. Fistulas are joints between arteries and veins located under the skin that form a larger vessel where needles are inserted.

When patients don’t need to live with dialysis and only go under a temporary treatment, they can get a catheter on their neck and there is no need for them to go under this minor surgery. In the case of the fistula, the wound needs to heal before the dialysis treatment takes place. However, in case patients use a catheter, they can go under the dialysis treatment right away and the procedure is slightly different.

4 Famous People Who Needed Dialysis Treatment

Kidney disease may affect anyone. In the United States, more than 65,000 individuals suffer from End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), and about 2 million people worldwide are affected by the same medical condition. There are multiple reasons why so many people have this disease. However, there are only two available treatments for it: going under dialysis or having a kidney transplant.

ESRD has affected thousands of Americans, and celebrities are not an exception to this. There are many Hollywood stars, famous writers and journalists and even athletes who have needed to go under dialysis treatment due to ESRD. In this article, Joe Cosgrove will share the story of some celebrities who have needed to go under dialysis treatment or had a kidney transplant.

Tracy Morgan

Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan

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In December 2010, the 30 Rock celebrity, Tracy Morgan, had to have a kidney transplant. The actor was diagnosed with type two diabetes almost 20 years earlier and didn’t pay much attention to it. This led to a reckless lifestyle that would later destroy his kidneys, due to the high levels of glucose in the blood that were never treated.

Apparently, Tracy Morgan never had to deal with dialysis, because his ex-girlfriend (Tanisha) offered to be his live donor and go under major surgery to have one of her kidneys removed and done it to him. Both of them successfully recovered and are living. Morgan now is very responsible with his diabetes and keeps glucose levels under control to prevent further kidney damage.

Related: What You Diet On Dialysis Should Look Like

Sarah Hyland


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At the age of 21, the Modern Family actress needed to go under kidney transplant surgery. As a child she was diagnosed with Kidney Dysplasia, a condition characterized by the development of abnormal tissue in the kidneys. For over 12 years she had anything but a carefree lifestyle until the pain was unbearable.

She told the media that she needed to rest for at least 12 hours every day in order to be able to work. She was in pain most of the time she was on the set and needed to do many of her scenes from a chair, where she could rest for a couple minutes during the shots.

Hyland was about to go under dialysis as she couldn’t find a kidney donor. This situation is common in America since every year there are at least 100,000 people who need a kidney transplant and only 20,000 available donors. Luckily, Hyland’s father offered to be the donor and she had her transplant in 2012. Since then she has raised her voice and offers hope and advice for those struggling with ESRD.

Related: 8 Celebrities You Probably Did Not Know Received Kidney Transplants Which Are Still Functioning

George Lopez

In 2005, the star of the George Lopez Show needed to have a kidney transplant. He was diagnosed with ESRD a year before having the surgery and had to work during that entire year in the production of his show. The actor was often in agony due to a congenital abnormality that had caused his ureters to narrow, leading to the poisoning of his kidneys.

One day, he told his wife, Anna, he was dying. Anna immediately told him that she would give one of her kidneys to him. The next day they were ready to go under surgery and were very supportive one to another. Lopez recalls how well he felt just a few days after the surgery, he stated that when you get a kidney transplant, you know that you are going to feel better, but you don’t know how better you are actually going to feel.

He decided to talk about his condition in his show. This way he aimed to create awareness towards ESRD, dialysis and Kidney Transplant.

Natalie Cole

Nat King Cole’s daughter was diagnosed in 2007 with Hepatitis C thanks to the many years she spent consuming destructive drugs. The treatment she needed to go under to save her liver, allowed her to recover 80 percent of its capacity, however, it destroyed her kidneys. By the time she was diagnosed with ESRD her kidneys were only operating at eight per cent.

Natalie was taken to a hospital right after her ESRD diagnosed and had to spend several days plugged to a dialysis machine. Finding and organ donor wasn’t an easy task for her (as it isn’t a piece of cake for most people in America), and she had to spend eight months under dialysis treatment before someone decided to give one of its kidneys to her.

The way Natalie’s kidney donor was found is called a miracle by some people. Mrs. Cole had been treated once by a nurse named Esther, who knew Natalie needed to find a kidney donor. Esther had a niece named Jessica who died of a stroke during pregnancy. When Jessica’s family decided to donate all her organs, Esther said she knew someone who had been really nice to her who needed a kidney transplant. Finally, Natalie was able to find a kidney match and get her transplant.