Home Dialysis Explained

Home dialysis is a convenient and flexible alternative to in-center dialysis treatments, eliminating the need to travel to and from the dialysis center several times weekly.

This approach empowers patients to manage their health more independently, with support from the Innovative Renal Care specialists and a trusted care partner.

While at-home dialysis may not be right for everyone, you may be a good candidate if you meet the medical requirements and are willing to undergo training.

Learn about the types of dialysis that can be performed at home, the benefits of home dialysis, how to do at-home dialysis safely, the tools and equipment needed, and why a trusted care partner is a crucial part of the process.

Dialysis equipment

Can You Do Dialysis at Home?

Yes, if it is approved by your nephrologist or dialysis care team following a comprehensive medical assessment and evaluation.

Home hemodialysis is an ongoing treatment you can do safely and independently (or with a trusted care partner, like a close friend or family member) from the comfort of your home.

During home hemodialysis, just like in-center dialysis, your blood is filtered and cleaned outside your body using an artificial kidney or dialyzer.

The dialyzer cleans your blood by eliminating excess fluids, toxins, and other waste products that your kidneys can no longer remove on their own. Once your blood is cleaned, it is returned to your body.

Person in armchair getting dialysis

Types of Home Hemodialysis

There are three main types of home dialysis. Each requires a thorough medical assessment to determine suitability. They are:

  • Home hemodialysis (HHD)

HHD can be performed in two different ways. Conventional HHD is performed three times a week for three to four hours (or more) per session based on your prescription, or HHD can be offered more frequently, such as 4-6 times a week for shorter time periods. Shorter and more frequent dialysis sessions help reduce symptoms of headaches, nausea, cramping, and feeling “washed out” after treatment.

  • Nocturnal hemodialysis

Nocturnal hemodialysis sessions are slower and longer because they are performed while you sleep. Most dialysis patients do this kind of dialysis 5-6 nights a week or every other night for approximately six to eight hours, depending on what your doctor prescribes and your normal sleep patterns.

  • Peritoneal dialysis at home

Peritoneal dialysis is another option for patients looking for more flexibility and convenience. Unlike hemodialysis, which requires filtering blood outside the body through the dialyzer, peritoneal dialysis uses the peritoneum as a natural filter. The peritoneum is a membrane lining inside the abdominal cavity.

This lining is used to help filter and remove waste products from your blood. A cleansing fluid is placed in your stomach area (abdomen) through a catheter during the process. After a set amount of time, the fluid with the filtered waste flows out of the body through the catheter and is discarded. New fluid is added to the abdomen at the start of each treatment. This type of dialysis can be done at home, at work, or while you travel, but it is only a good fit for some. If you are interested in peritoneal dialysis, talk to your care team to determine if it fits your unique medical needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Essential Equipment, Tools, and Medications for In-Home Dialysis?

Here is an idea of what you will need to set up a designated dialysis space in your home:

Equipment

  • Dialysis machine
  • Dialyzer (filter)*
  • Tubing and needles*
  • Water treatment system*
  • Bath scale
  • Blood pressure monitor
  • Thermometer
  • Emergency kit (e.g., medications and emergency contact information)

*These items are only needed for home hemodialysis, not peritoneal dialysis.

Tools and Supplies

  • Gloves
  • Hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes
  • Disinfectants
  • Bandages and dressings
  • Sharps container
  • Trash bags

Medications

Medications and dosage may vary according to each dialysis patient’s medical needs.

  • Anticoagulant – to prevent blood clotting
  • Iron supplement – to support red blood cell growth or address anemia
  • Vitamins and minerals (e.g., Phosphate, Calcium, Vitamin D)
  • Antihypertensives – to control blood pressure

How Do I Do Home Hemodialysis?

Home dialysis is a medical procedure and requires proper training, education, and guidance. If you or a loved one are interested in beginning dialysis treatments at home, here are the general steps involved

  • Determining eligibility
    Your nephrologist or dialysis care team can explain the procedure, assess your home environment, and evaluate your ability and willingness to self-manage the procedure and care. If approved, you can begin training.
  • Training and education
    If home dialysis is right for you, you (and your designated care partner) will receive important safety, technical, infection control, and emergency response training.
  • Setting up dialysis room or space
    Select a designated space in your home to perform your treatments. It should be clean, well-lit, and away from distractions. Air flow should be controlled, and pets will need to be out of the area/room during the dialysis treatment.
  • Setting up dialysis machine, supplies, and equipment

Learn how to set up and prime the dialysis machine, maintain a clean environment, connect and disconnect tubing, and prepare the dialysate solution.

  • Accessing the dialysis port
    Learn how to connect and disconnect properly.
  • Monitoring
    Learn how to monitor the dialysis machine, your vital signs, and the dialysis process to ensure your comfort and safety and that the machine is functioning correctly.
  • Managing complications (if needed)
    Learn how to recognize and manage things like blood clotting, machine alarms, or signs of infection.
  • Disinfecting and cleaning
    Learn how to properly clean and disinfect the dialysis machine and keep the treatment area clean to help prevent infection.
  • Attending regular visits at your dialysis center
    Attending your scheduled monthly clinic visits to monitor your progress and ensure treatments are beneficial and optimized for your unique medical needs.

Do I Need a Trusted Care Partner, or Can I Do It Myself?

Though not required, we highly recommend all home dialysis patients have a trusted care partner to help with and provide support during treatment sessions.

Why? There are several reasons.

Care partners provide valuable assistance in several areas, including:

  • Social and emotional support
    Hemodialysis at home can be emotionally taxing. Having a trusted partner by your side provides much-needed emotional support, helping patients reduce feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.
  • Physical assistance
    Some patients may have physical limitations that make it difficult to set up their dialysis equipment or perform certain tasks (e.g., plugging and unplugging equipment, connecting and disconnecting tubing, gathering, storing, or putting away supplies).
  • Monitoring and safety
    Having an extra set of eyes and ears during dialysis to identify signs of discomfort, complications, or emergencies can help you get the care you need quickly.
  • Emergency response
    Though emergencies are rare during home dialysis, a care partner can contact your care team or emergency services if needed.
  • Inventory control
    Care partners can monitor and reorder supplies to ensure patients are never without the supplies and medications needed.
  • Shared responsibility
    When patients undergo any medical procedure, it’s always helpful to have a trusted and reliable friend or family member there to support you.

Do I Need to Visit a Dialysis Center if I’m Doing Home Dialysis?

While home dialysis treatments eliminate your need to travel back and forth from Innovative Renal Care several times a week, regular dialysis center visits and follow-ups are crucial to your treatment plan.

These visits allow our skilled dialysis care team to evaluate your overall health and adjust your treatment plan (if needed) to ensure optimal health outcomes.

If you’re ready to begin your dialysis journey or seek greater autonomy and flexibility with your treatments, talk to your nephrologist or dialysis care team to find out if home dialysis is right for you.

Innovative Renal Care can provide the training, support, and guidance needed to begin dialysis treatments from the comfort of home.

Schedule a consultation to find out if at-home dialysis is right for you.

Informed patients are healthier and can more easily adjust to the restrictions associated with having a chronic disease.

Learn More About Treatment Options:

Home Hemodialysis

Very similar to in-center dialysis, but the patient, along with a care partner, are trained to perform the dialysis treatment at home.

Peritoneal dialysis (PD)

A needle-free approach that uses a patient’s abdomen as a filter and gives patients the freedom to perform the procedure at home or in other suitable locations. Our staff provide specialized training so you can perform PD.

Nocturnal dialysis

Nocturnal dialysis gives patients the option to have dialysis treatments at night. These treatments are done at the dialysis clinic, and many patients will sleep there overnight while being dialyzed.

“You’ll never find the quality of care that you get at an ARA facility anywhere else. The staff always have your best interest at heart and will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and help however they can. The truth is, I consider them my extended family!” 

Mr. Randal Beatty, University Kidney Center Hikes Lane, Louisville, KY