Peritoneal dialysis is another form of dialysis used to remove waste products and excess water. It works on the same principle as hemodialysis, but your blood is cleaned while still inside your body rather than in a machine.
In peritoneal dialysis, the inside of your abdomen—your peritoneal cavity—is filled with a special dialysis fluid that looks like water. This exposes blood vessels in the peritoneum to the fluid. The peritoneum functions just like the artificial membrane in a dialyzer. Excess water and wastes pass from the blood through the peritoneum into the dialysis fluid. The fluid is then drained from your body and discarded, and the process is repeated four to six times in every 24-hour period.
In peritoneal dialysis you always have dialysis fluid in your peritoneal cavity, so your blood is constantly being cleaned. The fluid is changed at regular intervals throughout the day.
Dialysis fluid enters the peritoneal cavity through a tube called a catheter. The catheter is surgically inserted in your abdomen, usually below and to one side of your navel and stays there as long as you are using this form of dialysis.
The insertion of the catheter may cause discomfort for a brief period, but peritoneal dialysis is not painful. However, care must be taken to avoid infection.
Peritoneal dialysis – strengths and limitations
- Relieves symptoms of uremia
- Is less stressful on your body because dialysis is done continuously (i.e. daily) versus intermittently (i.e. three times per week)
- Allows you a more liberal diet
- Frees you from hospital
- Makes it easier to travel
- Gives you greater flexibility with your treatment
- Permanent catheter in your abdomen
- Possibility of peritonitis (infection of your peritoneal cavity)
- Dialysis must be a daily part of your life
- You will have to take medications
- You will need to learn new food choices
- You will need to prevent the catheter from getting wet (no swimming)