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by Carmack A


Dialysis is a treatment that takes over the job of your kidneys. It will help to clear toxins from the blood. It will also help to balance fluid and salt levels in the body. There are two types of dialysis. This fact sheet will focus on peritoneal dialysis. It uses the lining of your abdomen and a special solution to filter your blood.

You may be on dialysis for a short time, or you may need it for the rest of your life.

Reasons for Procedure

The kidneys have many important jobs. They clear toxins out of your blood and help balance salt levels. Dialysis may be needed if the kidneys are not able to work well. It may be started when the kidneys have lost more than 90% of their function.

The main functions of peritoneal dialysis are to:

  • Remove wastes and extra fluids from your blood
  • Control blood pressure
  • Keep a safe level of salts in the body, such as potassium, sodium, and chloride

Dialysis may be used short term to allow your kidneys to rest and heal. If the kidney damage is permanent, dialysis will be needed for the rest of your life. It can improve the quality and length of life in people with severe kidney disease.

It may not be appropriate for all. People with obesity or previous surgery on abdomen may not be able to use this dialysis method.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Fluid leaking around the catheter
  • Infection in the belly— peritonitis
  • Infection around the catheter
  • Constipation
  • Failure to drain or instill the fluid
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Feeling hot, sweaty, weak, and/or lightheaded
  • Disruption of calcium and phosphorus balance, resulting in weakened bones

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

A small, soft tube about 24 inches long will be placed in the abdomen. One part of the tube will remain outside of the body. It may need to be placed 10-14 days before it can be used. This tube will remain there permanently. It will need regular care to decrease the risk of infection.

Description of the Procedure

A solution, called a dialysate, is passed through your tube. It will remain in the abdomen for the next few hours.

The lining of the abdomen has many tiny blood vessels. The solution sits next to these blood vessels. Fluid, waste, and chemicals can move from these blood vessels into the solution. The solution will be drained with waste and others after several hours. New solution may then be added to repeat the process.

There are different delivery options:

  • Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD)—This is the most common type. The solution remains for 3 to 6 hours. It will then be drained and refilled. It may be repeated 3 to 5 days over the day. This type can often be done at home. You can do normal activity while the solution is in.
  • Continuous cyclical peritoneal dialysis (CCPD)—A machine fills and drains the abdomen. It is often done at night while you sleep.
  • Intermittent peritoneal dialysis (IPD)—Uses the same type of machine as CCPD. It is often done at a hospital or center. It also takes longer than CCPD.
Peritoneal Dialysis
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How Long Will It Take?

The time needed for peritoneal dialysis depends on a few factors:

  • How much kidney function remains
  • How much fluid weight gain has occurred since the last round
  • Amount of waste in the body
  • Body size
  • Level of salts, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, in your body
  • Peritoneal dialysis type used
Type Length of Time How Often
CAPD 3-6 hours, plus 30 minutes to drain 4 times/day
CCPD 9-12 hours Every night
IPD 12 + hours 36-42 hours/week

Will It Hurt?

In general, it does not cause pain.

Post-procedure Care

Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. There are some special considerations.

You may need a special diet. This will help your overall health. It can also make treatment more effective. Ask your doctor about your specific needs.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, warmth, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the catheter or tube insertion site
  • Blood or cloudiness in the peritoneal dialysis fluid
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Belly pain
  • Lightheadedness

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases  https// 

National Kidney Foundation 


Health Canada 

The Kidney Foundation of Canada 


Dialysis. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: Accessed June 11, 2018.

Peritoneal dialysis: Dose & adequacy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Updated September 2010. Accessed June 11, 2018.

Peritoneal dialysis for end-stage renal disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated December 28, 2017. Accessed June 11, 2018.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018
  • Update Date: 06/07/2018