A Brief Overview of Dialysis Treatment Indications

Dialysis is a medical procedure that is used to filter excess water and waste from the blood in situations where the kidneys are no longer able to perform this function on their own. Within the United States, dialysis treatment has become increasingly common as the number of people suffering from the effects of diabetes and high blood pressure have risen. Although chronic diseases are the most common cause of end stage renal failure, there are several acute indications that can result in the need for treatment. Individuals who are faced with the prospect of long-term dialysis therapy can improve their outcomes and ensure compliance by developing a better understanding of renal failure.

Diabetes and high blood pressure currently account for over 80% of new renal failure cases in the US. The fact that these two conditions have become relatively common means that specialists in the field are prescribing dialysis treatment far more often than they did in the recent past. Unlike acute cases of kidney damage, most individuals who suffer from chronic diseases are evaluated and monitored over a long period of time. One of the most common parameters that physicians use to evaluate the health of the kidneys is known as the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The GFR is a strong indicator of the kidney’s ability to clean the blood and will progressively decline as renal damage becomes more severe. Most patients begin to experience signs and symptoms of kidney failure once their GFR has dropped below 85% of normal capacity. Anything below 15% is considered end stage renal failure and necessitates the implementation of dialysis or a kidney transplant.

In addition to appreciating the chronic conditions that can result in renal damage, it is important to have a basic understanding of the acute causes for treatment. Most healthcare personnel use the mnemonic ‘AEIOU’ to remember five of the most common reasons for suspecting kidney damage. These letters stand for acidemia, electrolyte imbalance, intoxication, overload, and uremia. Medical conditions such as these commonly result from the inability of the kidneys to remove excess water and waste from the body. As metabolic byproducts are produced, they accumulate to levels that can cause severe damage to vital organs such as the heart, brain, and liver. When a physician encounters test results that indicate renal failure, they commonly recommend dialysis as a treatment option. In some cases, the provider may attempt to correct the problem with medications before suggesting that dialysis be started.

While most of the acute indications for dialysis are caused by the accumulation of normal byproducts of metabolism, intoxication can occur when certain chemicals are ingested. In order to remember five of the most common compounds that can cause damage to the kidneys, medical personnel often use the mnemonic ‘SLIME.’ These letters stand for salicylic acid, lithium, isopropanol, magnesium-containing laxatives, and ethylene glycol. Care should be exercised when handling these chemicals and it is very important to make sure they are placed out of the reach of children. Accidental ingestion is a common scenario that can lead to severe renal complications and even death. In situations where intoxication is suspected, it is important to seek professional medical assistance as quickly as possible.

Long-term dialysis treatment is one of the most complicated and demanding medical therapies being used today. Individuals who suffer from end stage renal failure can improve their condition by learning as much as possible about the indications for dialysis and remaining compliant with the treatment process. A basic appreciation for the complexities of the kidneys and the challenges associated with cleaning the blood will help patients understand why the treatment process is so demanding and the negative outcomes that can result from failing to follow the prescribed regimen.