At Home Dialysis Helps Patients Return to a Normal Life
MADISON - Leading a "normal" life can be relatively impossible for people who require dialysis treatments.
"Being tethered to a dialysis machine for three to five hours a day, three days a week is very disruptive to a person’s attempts to live a normal life," says Lisa Nanovic, DO, director of the home dialysis program at Wisconsin Dialysis. "Factor in travel time to the clinic, altering work schedules and trying to care for a family, and people start to resent the very thing that's keeping them alive."
Not so for the people who use home dialysis.
Although only eight percent of the 500,000 people on dialysis in the U.S. use home dialysis, the trend is rapidly growing.
There are two types of home dialysis, peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis.
People who utilize peritoneal dialysis have an external access line that leads to their abdomen. Special solutions that remove toxins are delivered into the peritoneal membrane inside the abdomen. The membrane acts as a filter until the solutions are drained out. Most people using peritoneal dialysis connect prior to going to sleep each night.
Home hemodialysis is similar to in-center dialysis, relying on an external entry point to allow the blood to be diverted to a dialysis machine. The blood flows across a filter, along with solutions that help remove toxins, and is then returned to the body. However, home dialysis patients connect to their portable machine in the comfort of their own home, on their own schedule each day.
"And that's where the difference," says Nanovic, "really becomes apparent."
Home dialysis professionals believe the benefits for home dialysis far outweigh the steep learning curve required to master the process. Patients can go through dialysis every day, on their own schedule, allowing for the normalcy patients seek. Advocates also believe daily treatments mean patients are healthier and may live longer.
"It makes clear sense," adds Dr. Nanovic "Our own kidneys work round the clock, not just three days a week for a few hours. Home dialysis matches that schedule much more closely than three sessions a week at a dialysis center."
New compact machines and easy to understand technology mean more patients are interested in home dialysis. According to Medicare rules, dialysis centers must inform patients about home dialysis, but not everyone is a good candidate and some experts believe that only 20 to 50 percent of patients may be able to eventually master the procedures.
However, the soaring rates of kidney failure in the U.S. mean getting even a few more people back to "normal" is a priority.
Date Published: 11/06/2009