Many patients who need a dialysis treatment to control kidney failure must decide between two options. The first one, best-known as ‘hemodialysis,’ is the first image that pops into the minds of people when it comes to dialysis. This procedure consists of connecting the patient to a machine that fulfills the same functions as the kidneys: filtering the blood and eliminating the excess of fluids from the body. For this reason, it is necessary that patients go a couple of times a week to a hospital or to a specialized center, and lay down while the machine does its work. This is not the only option, though. There is also peritoneal dialysis. Despite this treatment does not differ essentially from hemodialysis, offers certain conveniences to patients that hemodialysis cannot allow. One of them is that patients do not have to plug into a machine or move to a hospital for doctors to monitor their health status.
Automated peritoneal dialysis is fundamentally not different from traditional peritoneal dialysis. This system uses the same type of catheters, and the kidney function is carried out in the same way. The difference is related the way in which the process is carried out. In automated peritoneal dialysis, a machine controls the development of the renal function. This means how much liquid gets into the bag and is ejected when the filtration process is over. In this way, patients do not have to worry about how much liquid they have added to the bag, and the machine is responsible for reminding patients when they should start a cycle in advance.
The filtering process takes about eight hours, but it may extend to ten, especially when patients are sleeping. One of the functions of the machine, in addition to calculating the amount of liquid that gets into the bag, is measuring the time of infusion, permanence, and drainage, and in a very safe way, which gives a lot of peace to both patients and doctors.
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The machines used for this procedure are not large. The biomedical engineering that has worked been behind the studies of automated peritoneal dialysis has made these machines fit in a small suitcase, which, although it may be heavy, has wheels and can be carried anywhere. The machine can be used almost anywhere (an airplane, for example.) One of the great advantages of this system is that the machine keeps a record of the activity from the beginning of the treatment, which can be observed by the doctor even without the patient moving to the hospital. This system is connected to the Internet. This means, in a few words, that the machine is permanently gathering information from the patient and transmitting it through the cloud. The doctor only has to use a device with an Internet connection to check the patient’s condition (it may be an app in his or her smartphone.)
The latter is a great advantage for doctors because the patient does not have to make any report. The system is responsible for producing the necessary information for the doctor to evaluate the patient’s conditions. Even some software systems are designed so that the machine tells the doctor if the patient is presenting problems that must be resolved urgently (the first symptoms of peritonitis, for example) and that patients may not detect in time, meaning this a great danger to their health.
Automated peritoneal dialysis, in addition to being very useful for the health of patients, is also useful for medical research in this field. Because the number of patients suffering from kidney failure increases every year, doctors are very concerned about finding new ways to solve this problem. For this, it is tremendously important to have a large amount of information available.
Some doctors wonder if this system is recommended. The truth is that it is. There are studies showing that automated peritoneal dialysis is related to a much higher survival rate than the traditional peritoneal dialysis system. The reason for this is that the machines can calculate much more accurately the amounts of liquid that the patients need, as well as the filtering and expulsion times. The medical community knows that the more customized the treatments, the results will be much better since every organism is different and may react differently to the general conditions of any treatment. This is the case. On the other hand, one of the main problems that occur in peritoneal dialysis are infections, which has been resolved in a large percentage thanks to automation and its monitoring. The behavior of blood pressure is also another problem, and the study mentioned above shows that medical science is ready to reduce this issue to almost the minimum. There is still much to be discovered in terms of peritoneal dialysis, but the truth is that it is progressing so fast thanks to the data provided by patients. Let’s hope for the best.
* Featured Image courtesy of Franck Genten at Flickr.com