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Chronic Kidney Disease: Dialysis and Kidney Transplantation

Post written by BFH Staff Writer on November 30, 2023
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Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a serious and progressive condition that affects millions of people worldwide. As the disease advances, it can lead to a significant decline in kidney function, posing a threat to overall health. Fortunately, modern medicine offers advanced treatment options to manage CKD effectively. Two proven successful methods in improving the quality of life for CKD patients are dialysis and kidney transplantation. In this article, we will look into these advanced treatment options, exploring their mechanisms, benefits, and considerations for individuals with CKD.

Understanding Chronic Kidney Disease

Before delving into treatment options, it’s imperative to grasp the core concepts of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and understand its fundamentals. The kidneys serve a pivotal role in filtering waste products and surplus fluids from the bloodstream, while also upholding a balance of electrolytes and generating indispensable hormones. As CKD advances, these pivotal functions become compromised, resulting in an accumulation of waste and excess fluids within the body. Now, to address the query, “How many kidneys do you have,” an individual typically possesses two kidneys.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

CKD is classified into five stages based on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which measures the kidneys’ filtering capacity. In the early stages, patients may not experience noticeable symptoms. As the disease advances, symptoms such as fatigue, swelling, and changes in urine output may become more apparent.

Advanced Treatment Options


Dialysis is a life-saving medical procedure that replicates the functions of the kidneys, that is, the removal of wastes and excess fluids from the body. There are differences between hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.● Hemodialysis: This procedure involves using an artificial kidney (dialyzer) to filter the blood outside the body. During hemodialysis, blood is drawn from the patient, filtered through the dialyzer, and then returned to the body. Typically, hemodialysis is performed at a dialysis center three times a week, with each session lasting several hours.● Peritoneal Dialysis: In this method, the peritoneum, a membrane lining the abdominal cavity, acts as a natural filter. Doctors introduce a cleansing solution into the abdomen through a catheter, and waste products pass from the blood vessels in the peritoneum into the solution. After a dwell time, they drain the solution, carrying the waste out of the body. We can do peritoneal dialysis at home, offering more flexibility for some patients.

Benefits of Dialysis

Dialysis plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and well-being of individuals with advanced CKD. Some key benefits include:● Waste Removal: Dialysis helps eliminate waste products and excess fluids from the body, preventing the buildup of toxins that can be harmful.● Fluid Balance: By regulating fluid levels, dialysis helps manage blood pressure and reduces the risk of complications related to fluid retention.● Symptom Relief: Dialysis can alleviate symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath associated with advanced CKD.

Considerations for Dialysis Patients

While dialysis is a vital treatment option, patients need to consider certain factors:● Lifestyle Changes: Dialysis requires a commitment to regular sessions, potentially impacting daily routines. Patients may need to make adjustments to accommodate treatment schedules.● Dietary Restrictions: A kidney-friendly diet is crucial for individuals undergoing dialysis. They may need to limit the intake of certain foods and fluids to manage electrolyte balance.● Access to Care: Hemodialysis is performed at specialized centers, requiring patients to have reliable transportation and access to healthcare facilities.

Kidney Transplantation

Kidney transplantation is the gold standard for treating end-stage renal disease (ESRD) when kidney function has declined severely. In this procedure, experts transplant a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor into the recipient, effectively restoring kidney function.Living Donor Transplants: Living donor transplants involve the transplantation of a kidney from a living person, typically a family or friend. This option has several advantages, including a shorter waiting time and potentially better outcomes.Deceased Donor Transplants: Deceased donor transplants involve receiving a kidney from an individual who has recently passed away. Banks source these kidneys from individuals who have registered as organ donors or from those who have had their organs donated by their families.

Benefits of Kidney Transplantation

Improved Quality of Life

Kidney transplantation has a profound impact on the quality of life of individuals with CKD. Compared to the constraints imposed by dialysis, a successful kidney transplant enables patients to experience life with greater normalcy and fewer restrictions. Dialysis often needs strict dietary limitations, fluid restrictions, and demanding treatment schedules. In contrast, a functioning transplanted kidney can restore the body’s ability to filter waste and maintain fluid balance more efficiently, allowing recipients to enjoy a more flexible lifestyle.Beyond the physical aspects, the psychological and emotional benefits are significant. Patients who undergo successful kidney transplantation report higher levels of energy, improved mental well-being, and a sense of freedom from the constraints of chronic illness. This enhanced quality of life positively affects relationships, employment, and overall satisfaction.

Long-term Solution

Unlike dialysis, which is an ongoing and lifelong commitment, a kidney transplant offers a more enduring solution to CKD. While dialysis mimics some kidney functions, the patient must continue the treatment for the rest of their life. The routine of dialysis sessions, whether performed at a center or home, can be physically and emotionally draining.On the other hand, a kidney transplant offers prolonged respite from routine dialysis. While recipients need to stay attentive to post-transplant care, primarily through medications and regular checkups, the overall commitment is less demanding and temporary compared to dialysis. This transition enables individuals to reclaim a semblance of normal life and independence. Concerning the query about maximum life after a kidney transplant, successful kidney transplants often provide recipients with a chance at an extended and improved quality of life, offering the potential for many years of enhanced health and well-being.

Better Health Outcomes

Numerous studies have consistently demonstrated that kidney transplantation is associated with superior health outcomes when compared to long-term dialysis. The benefits extend beyond mere survival rates; transplant recipients often report reduced complications associated with CKD.The mortality rates for individuals undergoing kidney transplantation are generally lower than those for patients relying solely on dialysis. Additionally, transplant recipients are less prone to heart problems, infections, and other complications associated with prolonged dialysis treatment.  The reduced risks and improved health complications are attributed to the restoration of normal kidney function, which goes beyond what dialysis can achieve. A transplanted kidney not only filters waste and excess fluid more effectively but also contributes to the synthesis of essential hormones, promoting overall physiological balance.

Considerations for Transplant Recipients

While kidney transplantation offers numerous benefits, recipients must consider certain factors:● Immunosuppressive Medications: Transplant recipients need to take immunosuppressive medications for the rest of their lives to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted organ. These medications can have side effects and require close monitoring.● Organ Rejection: Despite advancements in transplant medicine, there is still a risk of organ rejection. Regular follow-up care and strict medication regimens are crucial to prevent rejection.● Donor Compatibility: Finding a suitable donor, whether living or deceased, is a critical factor in the success of kidney transplantation. Doctors perform compatibility tests to ensure a physiological match and reduce the risk of rejection.


In conclusion, the study of advanced treatment options, including dialysis for chronic kidney disease, shows the significant impact of transplantation on patients’ lives. Dialysis serves as a life-sustaining therapy, effectively managing CKD symptoms and improving overall well-being. On the other hand, kidney transplantation offers a more permanent solution, enhancing the quality of life for recipients and potentially extending their lifespan.Individuals with CKD, along with their healthcare providers, must carefully weigh the pros and cons of each treatment option to determine the most suitable approach. 


When is dialysis needed?

Dialysis is required when kidneys fail to adequately perform their vital functions of filtering waste products and excess fluids from the blood. It becomes necessary in cases of advanced kidney disease or kidney failure, maintaining electrolyte balance and managing blood pressure when the kidneys can no longer function effectively, posing a threat to overall health.

How long can someone live on dialysis?

Life expectancy on dialysis varies, but statistics suggest an average survival rate of 5 to 10 years, though some individuals live longer with proper care. Factors influencing longevity include overall health, age, adherence to treatment, underlying conditions, and access to kidney transplantation, which can improve life expectancy.


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