End-Stage Renal Disease Treatment Options

Date: Mar 4, 2020

The kidneys are small but mighty organs, and they have a big job of filtering 200 quarts of blood, and about two quarts of waste and water every day.

When your kidneys aren’t working as well as they should – because of a chronic disease or acute illness – it’s difficult to remove waste and fluids, and dangerous toxins begin to build up into your body. Chronic kidney disease, which affects more than 30 million Americans, can also put you at higher risk for serious issues, including heart attack and stroke.

What Is End-Stage Renal Disease?

Kidney failure is known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD) because it’s the last stage of chronic kidney disease. This means that one or both of your kidneys no longer function on their own.

ESRD can be very scary for patients and their families. Fortunately, today’s advances in medicine are delivering better treatments and outcomes for individuals with ESRD. The two most common treatment options are dialysis and kidney transplant.


Dialysis is a life-saving treatment process that helps the body remove waste and water from the blood. A machine does the work of your kidneys, prevents salt and water buildup, controls blood pressure, and maintains the minerals your body needs in the bloodstream. Dialysis is an on-going treatment. There are two main types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.


During hemodialysis, blood is passed from the body through a set of tubes to a special filter called a dialyzer. Once the blood passes through the filter, the cleansed blood is returned to the body through another set of tubes. Hemodialysis treatments are usually administered three times per week as an outpatient at a dialysis center. Each session can last from two to four hours.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your stomach to filter blood. A sterile solution (dialysate) with minerals and glucose runs through a tube into the peritoneal cavity (the space between the abdominal walls). This cleansing fluid stays in the peritoneal cavity for a few hours to absorb waste products and fluids from your body. Then, it is drained out by a tube and into a separate bag. This process is done several times through out each day.

There are two types of peritoneal dialysis: continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD) and continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). Your doctor will help you decide which approach is best, and both types of peritoneal dialysis are done at home.

Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is another option for individuals with ESRD. This surgical procedure removes the kidneys that are no longer functioning and replaces them with one healthy kidney. (Our bodies only need one healthy kidney to effectively filter waste and water from the blood).

The main advantage of a kidney transplant is quality of life: Individuals who undergo a kidney transplant are usually able to return to a normal, active lifestyle. In fact, many find themselves enjoying things they never were able to before the transplant, such as travel, exercise and more time with family and friends.

A transplant improves your kidney health and your overall health and wellness. Many find they have more energy, a stronger appetite, and are better able to manage chronic health conditions. They also no longer need dialysis.

What End-Stage Renal Disease Treatment Option Is Best for Me?

You, your doctor and your family should talk openly and honestly about which option is best to treat your end-stage renal disease. Your doctor can provide important information about the risks and benefits of each treatment, and how they may impact your health and condition. Your family, a social worker or a therapist can help you weigh the emotional, mental and physical toll of dialysis versus transplant.

Every individual’s path to treating end-stage renal disease looks a little different. The best news is that, with today’s technology, research, and on-going support, you have more options – and opportunities – to enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life.


Emory Dialysis Center

Emory Dialysis operates three state-of-the-art dialysis clinics located across Atlanta. Patients have access to Emory’s world-renowned physicians and clinical staff, including nurses, technicians, dietitians, and social workers. We offer a full range of dialysis modalities, including in-center hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, as well as training services for home hemodialysis. To learn more, visit the Emory Dialysis Center page.

Emory Kidney Transplant Program

The Emory Kidney Transplant Program performed Georgia’s first kidney transplant in 1966, and currently ranks no. 9 nationally for adult kidney transplant volume. Our renowned team has performed more than 5,300 kidney transplants – making us a leading national program. Our team of specialists is highly skilled in the care of kidney transplant patients and will work with you every step of the way to ensure quality care and service. To learn more, visit Emory's Kidney Transplant Program.

Schedule your appointment today.

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