More About Dialysis

Why is dialysis needed?

A child's whose kidneys are not working needs dialysis to filter waste and toxins from the blood. Your child may need to be on dialysis until we have completed the pre-transplant evaluation and a kidney has been found.

We can provide safe, effective dialysis to even the smallest children thanks to improved technology and medical know-how.


Hemodialysis is the name of one type of dialysis that filters blood. Removing harmful wastes and extra salt and fluids through the hemodialysis process helps control blood pressure and keep the proper balance of chemicals like potassium and sodium in your child's body.

Your child will have two intravenous lines (IVs) - small plastic tubes that are put into veins. The first IV removes blood, a few ounces at a time. A pump sends the blood through the dialysis machine, which contains a special cleaning filter. The clean blood is then returned to your child's body through the second IV.

Children's has a team of nurses with special training to help your child with hemodialysis.

Peritoneal dialysis

Another type of dialysis often used to treat children is called peritoneal dialysis. It works by using the lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum as a filter. We train families to do this at home.

There are three stages to a peritoneal dialysis cycle (or exchange):

  1. A soft tube called a catheter is used to fill the abdomen with a cleansing liquid called dialysis solution. The amount of fluid varies but is usually related to your child's weight.
  2. The dialysis fluid stays in the abdomen for a while. The amount of time varies from child to child and depends on the type of peritoneal dialysis. During this time, waste products and extra fluid in the blood pass through tiny blood vessels in the lining of the abdomen into the dialysis fluid. The fluid contains a sugar called dextrose that helps pull wastes and extra fluid into the abdominal cavity from the tiny blood vessels.
  3. The used dialysis fluid is drained from the body through the catheter and then discarded.

How long do children stay on dialysis?

If your child has short-term (acute) kidney failure, your child will stay on dialysis until their kidneys recover.

If your child has chronic kidney failure, they will remain on dialysis until a transplant is performed. Some children may require dialysis after transplant, until the new kidney is fully working.

During this time our dietitians, transplant nurses, social worker and pharmacists will teach your family about your child's new diet, medicines and many other aspects of transplant care.

What is special about our dialysis unit?

Our dialysis unit treats many children, on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. The unit offers school programs, social work services and nutrition education.

The dialysis service has medical equipment sized for infants and young children, and TV, games and videos that help pass the time during treatment. Families are welcome at all dialysis treatments.