Rapper MD

Hemodialysis v.s. Peritoneal Dialysis

In this section, we describe the difference between these types of dialysis.

Reversing Medical Disease Clinic


  • Part 1: describes the differences in these dialysis modalities.  Dialysis is an artificial way to rid your body of metabolic wastes and excess water when your kidneys work at a rate per minute -15% or less.
  • Part 2: describes the pros and cons of each modality.

Part 1: What exactly entails a “healthier” lifestyle?

Sure, you could exercise more and cut down on unhealthy foods, but how long will you keep it up? One week, three weeks, maybe a couple of months? Once you have learned about your new health skills and habits, it is very important to keep it up for the rest of your life.

Dr. Mary Washington aka RapperMD (RMD) indicates that 80% of the patients she sees who have diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure, eat unhealthy and are physically inactive. They all want to blame it on their family genes when in actuality it is their unhealthy lifestyle. Sadly, so many early deaths happen in patients who waited too late to try to make a healthier change. The most compelling stories I’ve heard are about the patients that have to go through the different types of dialysis, Hemodialysis (HD) and Peritoneal dialysis (PD).

Dialysis is the cleaning process of the blood when your kidneys are no longer doing this adequately. In hemodialysis (HD), a machine with an ‘artificial kidney’ filters the metabolic wastes and fluid from your blood. But how does your blood get connected to this machine? Surgery is needed to make an ‘access’ joining an artery to a vein under your skin to make a bigger blood vessel called a ‘fistula’. RMD specifically uses vascular surgeons to create this ‘access’ in your forearm, upper arm or thigh. However, if your blood vessels are too calcified or too small,  the surgeon places a soft plastic tube to join an artery and a vein under your skin. This is called a ‘graft’. When one needs dialysis urgently, an ‘access’ is made by means of a narrow plastic tube, called a catheter, which is inserted into a large vein in your neck or groin. This type of access may be temporary (Quinton catheter) but is sometimes used for long-­term treatment (eg. tunneled tessio-catheter).

I am sure you see the different dialysis centers around your neighborhoods. In a  center, the dialysis treatments are given either on Monday-­‐Wednesday-­‐Friday or Tuesday-­‐Thursday-­Saturday. One hemodialysis session can last anywhere from 3 hours (eg. small elderly lady) to 5 hours (eg. a large male). 

Peritoneal (per-­‐it-­‐toe-­‐NEE-­‐ul) (PD) dialysis is another way to remove waste products from your blood when your kidneys can no longer do the job adequately. The peritoneal area is the cavity below your diaphragm that contains your liver/stomach/ pancreas/intestines/gallbladder/ and urinary bladder.

During peritoneal dialysis (PD), blood vessels lining your peritoneum (peritoneal membrane) do the job for the kidney arteries. A machine is used to warm and push cleansing fluid called dianeal (or dialysate-­‐ which is a solution that contains glucose, potassium, salt, calcium, etc) into your peritoneum. A surgeon places a plastic tube called a Tenckhoff Catheter into your peritoneal cavity to make an ‘access’ so that the dianeal can flow easily into and out of your peritoneal space. As blood enters the lining of your peritoneum membrane it is near the dianeal fluid. There is a shift of urea/minerals/ glucose/water/etc.between this membrane. The excess water and waste products are then removed when the peritoneum is drained via the Tenckhoff Catheter into a separate bag or with extension tubing that is placed in the patient’s toilet. This whole process (pushing fluid in/filling the cavity/draining out of cavity)…..is called an “exchange.”

A dialysis prescription will tell the nurse how to program the PD machine for ‘X’ number of exchanges the dialysis patient must do to get good cleaning of his/her blood. One exchange (or dialysis Rx): Fill time: 10-­‐20 minutes to place the volume in your cavity. Dwell time: how long it takes to undergo the chemical(s) shift across the peritoneum membrane. Drain time: another 20 minutes. In other words, a person can undergo 5-­‐7 of these ‘exchanges’ in one day.

There are various ways to receive PD. Acute schedule, chronic schedules CAPD, CCPD, NIPD or various combinations thereof. Below are the two most popular.

Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD) is the only type of peritoneal dialysis that is done without machines. You do this yourself, usually four or five times a day; at home and/or at work. You put a bag of dialysate (2-­‐2.5 liters of dianeal) into your peritoneal cavity through the catheter. The dialysate stays there for about three or four hours before it is drained back into an empty bag and thrown away. This is called an exchange. You use a new bag of dialysate each time you do an exchange. While the dialysate dwells in your peritoneal cavity, you can go about your usual activities at work, at school or at home. There are usually about 5 exchanges that take place during the day. None at night/bedtime.

Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (APD) usually is done at home using a special machine called a cycler. This is similar to CAPD except that several cycles (exchanges) occur usually while sleeping. Each cycle usually lasts 1 to 1½ hours and exchanges are done throughout the night. There are about 7 to 8 exchanges that take place during the night and none during the day. The fluid drains through a tube that extends to the patient’s toilet.

Fortunately, dialysis does some of the work that a healthy kidney would do; however, it does not cure kidney disease. If your kidneys have failed your other option is a kidney transplant.

Life expectancy on dialysis can vary. It depends on what disease caused you to need dialysis. RapperMD has a small percentage of patients that have been on dialysis for 10-15 years and an even smaller percentage that still work, go to school and even go on cruises. They do their dialysis as prescribed and make some dietary changes. RMD doesn’t want you to go through any type of dialysis. We urge you to start living healthy TODAY!

Part 2: All dialysis accesses are at risk of not working properly.

The main causes for patients frequent visits to access centers or admissions to the hospitals are malfunctioning ‘access’.   Examples, clotting, getting infected , pending rupture, infection and/or death from sepsis.

However, there are certain medical conditions in which a doctor would recommend one modality over the other. In the next section, I offer the pros and cons of both and provide concrete examples depending on the patient’s medical condition.

Hemodialysis: PROS 

1- A structured routine is needed. The patient needs to be monitored more regularly w/fluid removal, medication changes, or until the blood pressure is better controlled. They can always switch modalities later.

2- A social network is create amongst the clients. Especially for the elderly who are homebound or in a nursing home during the day.  With dialysis they have somewhere to go and can talk to others who share same circumstances.

3-Temporary.  For example, while you heal from a gall bladder surgery when your modality was PD OR you develop Acute Kidney Injury because you took too many ibuprofen after becoming dehydrate and achy from too much physical activity. 

4-Prefer NOT to do this at home. Some clients don’t want their grandchildren anywhere near the equipment.

6- Awaiting a living donor transplant .  For example, you  have a cousin who matched and has planned the summer to take off of work to go through the surgery with you.  In the meantime, you would using a tunnel dialysis catheter.  

7- The environment at home is not conducive to PD.

Hemodialysis (HD) CONS 

1- Peripheral vascular disease, Example:  You already have an amputation below your knee, or diabetic neuropathy  causing tingling  in your fingers or a non-healing ulcer on your toes. A vascular access in your arm or leg will put you at risk of losing your hand or foot. This is called ʻSteal Syndrome.’

2- Heart disease,  Your arteries are blocked, valves are calcified, or the heart only pumps <20 % of the blood to the rest of your organs  every time it beats. In any of these cases, you probably wouldn’t be able to  handle a HD session. Your blood pressure may drop or you may develop chest pain and/or start cramping all while  having a difficulty breathing because you are so full of water from what you ate and drank last night — and your body can’t make urine! Just how much of my blood is being clean? * 

** HD is very fast. We pass 400-500 cc/min of your blood through this artificial (artificial kidney or dialyzer) in a four-hour session. 

That is  96 liters of a person’s blood is cleaned in  a 4 hour HD session.

I told you in the October RMD newsletter about fluids: page 2  I broke down water from blood. I know repetition is the key. So an adult  70kg man ( 1.0 kilogram =2.2 lbs. ) x 60%.  This is 42 liters of total body fluid. That is total water and blood plasma. (How much plasma/blood: 70kg x 75 = 5.2 liters of blood.)

Divide that 96 liters by your plasma volume. All of your blood has pass through this artificial filter about 18 times – whew!  And don’t forget that 36.8 liters of body fluid that is being shifted in between body compartments and/or removed. 

Then you need to get disconnected from the machine, the technician cleans your chair and you leave so the next individual can get connected. 

3- Diet/fluid intake is very strict. You should gain no more than 2 liters between each session and no more than 4 during your weekend. 

4- Home HD: this is an option if you have private insurance. You should check with your insurance company.

Peritoneal Dialysis (PD)

A normal kidney works every minute just like your heart. Therefore waste products/balancing minerals/water is done at a slower rate all day long. Thatʼs 168 hours of cleaning per week vs HD 12 hours a week. And Hemodialysis patients still want to cut short their treatment times…smh!


1- Spare your arms/legs especially with PVD or amputations already as outlined above. 

2- We want children to preserve their extremities until they get a transplant.

3- A slower rate of cleansing means less shift in fluids and less cramping.  

4- Your *diet is not as strict. Especially when it comes to drinking fluids, because you still urinate. Your blood pressure rarely drops during treatment. You maintain your residual GFR and still make some urine, even if its 9% of your blood being cleaned. (After about a year on HD you make NO Urine! With all the shifts in fluids and drop in your blood pressure, whatever little residual urine you could make with the remainder nephrons are completely knocked out).

*Everybody is different. Some patients lose lots of potassium through their peritoneal membrane.  Yeah, you can eat watermelon! 

*In fact, my team encourages you to eat frequent small portions since you lose more albumin through the peritoneum w/PD. You want to make sure your bowel movements are regular so that the tenckhoff catheter doesnʼt float up in your peritoneal cavity.

7- Patients with heart disease as described above. 

8- At my center, we train 2 people at the same time: the patient and a back-up person in case the patient is too sick to do his/her exchanges.  

10- PD nurse is available like your doctor 24/7. You have monthly visits with your nephrologist/PD nurse/dietician/social worker.

11- Travel is convenient. The machines are very transportable with the carrying case resembling a suitcases.  

PD cons 

1- Multiple abdominal surgeries. ( gallbladder remove/hernia repairs), you have had lots of scar tissue on your peritoneum membrane. There will be no surface area for your membrane to remove any waste products. HD would be your best option.

2-Obesity. A relative contra-indication. We let the surgeon evaluate where you wear your belt line or skirt line so the placement of the tenckhoff catheter is either above or below this line. The actual site where the catheter comes out to the outside of your body so you can connect yourself to do the solutions is called the exit site.

3- Poorly controlled diabetic: the dianeal or dialysate is a high sugar content to make the osmolar shifts across your peritoneal blood vessel lining into the peritoneal space. More sugar is being absorbed into your bloodstream so your medications have to be adjusted.

4- Too many peritoneal infections make me suspect your technique needs to be reviewed, you’re just not doing this right. or there is an intra-peritoneal process like diverticulitis or rupture gallbladder. A quick surgical consult can help.

The Lifestyle Medicine Videos shows these procedures and more. Become a member and support the RMD Campaign fighting to educate yourself and save those kidneys!