Kidney Failure Treatment Options

What is Kidney Failure?

Kidney failure is the end result of a gradual loss of kidney function. The most common causes are high blood pressure and diabetes. Kidney failure occurs when one loses about 90% of kidney function, and when the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) falls below 15. Those suffering from end-stage kidney failure have two treatment options: dialysis or a kidney transplant.


Dialysis is a common treatment process that helps the body remove waste from the blood. This process replaces the function of kidneys and keeps the body in balance by not only removing waste but preventing salt and extra water from building up in the body, helping to control blood pressure, and keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood. There are two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis replaces the work of kidneys by helping clear waste and extra fluid from your blood. During this treatment, blood is passed from the body through a set of tubes to a special filter called a dialyzer. Once the blood passes through the filter, the cleansed blood is returned to the body through another set of tubes. Hemodialysis treatments are usually administered three times per week. Each session can last from two to four hours.

Peritoneal Dialysis
Peritoneal dialysis is a treatment where a sterile solution, called dialysate, containing minerals and glucose run through a tube into a peritoneal cavity. This cleansing fluid stays in the peritoneal cavity for a period of time to absorb waste products and is then drained out by a tube and discarded. This is a cyclic process that occurs four to five times per day. Types of chronic peritoneal dialysis are determined by various schedules.

Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant can also serve as a treatment option for many people with end-stage kidney disease. This process involves transplanting a healthy kidney into the body. The kidney can come from someone who has passed away (deceased donor) or a living donor.

One main advantage of transplantation over dialysis is the quality of life factor, as many are able to return to a more normal lifestyle post-transplant. In addition, people who undergo kidney transplantation no longer require hours of dialysis treatment. After a transplant, one’s health and energy should improve. A successful kidney transplant can allow people to live the kind of life before they ever experienced kidney disease.

What Option is Best for Me?

Choosing the best treatment depends on the understanding both the pros and cons for each treatment option. They are different for each person. When making a decision about which treatment is best, talk to a physician, social worker, family, and other people with end-stage kidney disease about the different options you are presented with.

About Emory Dialysis Center
Emory Dialysis operates three state-of-the-art dialysis clinics located across Atlanta. Patients have access to Emory’s world-renowned physicians and clinical staff including nurses, technicians, dieticians, and social workers. We offer a full range of dialysis modalities, including in-center hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, and training services for home hemodialysis. To learn more, visit Emory Dialysis.

About Emory Kidney Transplant
Emory Transplant Center performed Georgia’s first kidney transplant in 1966 and currently ranks as one of the most prestigious transplant programs in the country. Our team of specialists is highly skilled in the care of kidney transplant patients and will work with you every step of the way to ensure quality care and service. To date, Emory has performed more than 4,700 adult kidney transplants. To learn more, visit Emory’s Kidney Transplant Program.


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