4 Kidney Failure Treatment Options

When your kidneys reach the stage of failure (also known as end-stage renal disease or ESRD), it means they are no longer able to filter waste and excess fluid from your blood effectively. This is a serious condition, but there are effective kidney failure treatment options to manage it and support your quality of life. Let’s discuss these in detail.

Kidney Failure Treatment Options

Four diverse patients showcasing different kidney failure treatment options. One dials a home hemodialysis machine, another rests peacefully during peritoneal dialysis. A third person enjoys a meal (dietary management), and two gloved hands carefully hold a healthy kidney (transplant)

Kidney Transplant (Longevity Promoting Kidney Failure Treatment Options)

  • What it is: A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure where a healthy kidney from a donor is placed into your body to take over the function of your failing kidneys. Donors can be deceased (from someone who has recently passed away) or living (usually a relative or close friend).
  • Benefits: A successful kidney transplant is considered the best treatment option for most people with kidney failure. It can offer significantly improved quality of life, greater freedom from dietary and lifestyle restrictions, and longer life expectancy compared to dialysis.
  • Considerations: Not everyone is a candidate for a transplant. You’ll need a thorough medical evaluation. There is waiting time involved, as matching kidneys must be found. Additionally, you’ll need to take anti-rejection medications for the rest of your life.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Am I a suitable candidate for a kidney transplant?
  • What is the process for getting on the transplant list?
  • How long is the average wait time?
  • What are the risks of transplant surgery and the long-term use of anti-rejection drugs?

Peritoneal Dialysis (PD)

  • What it is: Peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of your abdominal cavity (the peritoneum) as a natural filter. A special fluid (dialysate) is placed into your abdomen through a catheter. This fluid draws waste and excess fluids from your blood across the peritoneal membrane. After a dwell time, the fluid is drained out and discarded.
  • Benefits: PD is a home-based therapy, offering much more flexibility and independence compared to in-center dialysis. It can often be done overnight while you sleep, or with several exchanges during the day.
  • Considerations: You’ll need to carefully follow procedures to keep the catheter area sterile and avoid infection (peritonitis). You’ll also need dedicated storage space in your home for supplies.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Can you explain the different types of peritoneal dialysis (CAPD and automated PD)?
  • What training will I receive, and is there ongoing support?
  • Are there specific diet or activity restrictions with PD?

Hemodialysis (HD)

  • What it is: Hemodialysis uses an artificial kidney machine (a dialyzer) to clean your blood. Before treatments can begin, you need a vascular access point. This is a minor surgical procedure to create either:
    • An arteriovenous (AV) fistula: The preferred access, where your own artery and vein are joined.
    • An AV graft: If your blood vessels aren’t suitable for a fistula, a synthetic tube connects an artery and vein.
    • Central venous catheter: A temporary option if a fistula or graft cannot be used right away.
    During hemodialysis, your blood flows through the access point and into the dialysis machine, where it’s filtered and then returned to your body.
  • Benefits: Hemodialysis is very effective at removing waste products and fluid. Treatments are typically done in a dialysis center 3-4 times a week, but there are also home hemodialysis options with more frequent treatments.
  • Considerations: In-center hemodialysis involves adhering to a rigorous treatment schedule. It can also cause fluctuations in blood pressure and energy levels. Home hemodialysis requires training and a dedicated treatment space at home.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What are the pros and cons of different vascular access types?
  • Can you explain what home hemodialysis involves and whether I’d be a candidate?
  • Are there dietary restrictions I need to follow on hemodialysis?

Conservative Management

  • What it is: Also called supportive or palliative care. This focuses on managing symptoms of kidney failure and improving quality of life, without dialysis or transplant.
  • Benefits: Avoids potential side effects of dialysis and the surgical risks of a transplant. It allows for more flexibility and control over your daily routine.Conservative management avoids potential side effects of dialysis and the surgical risks of a transplant. It allows for more flexibility and control over your daily routine.
  • Considerations: This approach doesn’t replace kidney function, and your health will gradually decline. Medications and dietary changes can help manage symptoms, but eventually, your condition will likely progress. It’s a crucial decision, and open communication with your doctor and loved ones is essential.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What can I expect with conservative management in terms of symptom control, kidney failure symptoms, and quality of life?
  • What medications and dietary changes might be recommended for conservative management of kidney failure?
  • What resources are available for kidney failure support and palliative care?

Additional Considerations:

  • Early diagnosis and intervention: Regardless of the kidney failure treatment options you choose, early diagnosis and intervention for kidney disease are crucial. This can help slow the progression of kidney failure and potentially extend the time you can function without dialysis.
  • Working with your healthcare team: A team approach is vital. You’ll likely have a nephrologist (kidney specialist), nurse, dietician, and social worker involved in your care plan.
  • Individualized approach: The best kidney failure treatment option depends on your specific medical condition, age, overall health, lifestyle preferences, and support system. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Video Overview: Understanding Treatment Options for Kidney Failure

To further solidify your understanding, here’s a helpful video outlining the key choices available for treating kidney failure:

Addressing Common Fears and Concerns

Facing a diagnosis of kidney failure can be overwhelming. Here are some common concerns and how to manage them:

  • Fear of the unknown: It’s natural to feel anxious when faced with a life-changing diagnosis. Remember, you’re not alone. Your healthcare team will provide information and ongoing support throughout your journey.
  • Concerns about dialysis: Dialysis treatments can seem daunting. Discuss your concerns with your doctor. They can explain how modern dialysis techniques aim to be comfortable and how your care plan will be tailored to your lifestyle needs (dialysis options like peritoneal dialysis or home hemodialysis).
  • Misconceptions about transplant: The idea of surgery and lifelong medication can be worrisome. Your doctor will explain the high success rates of kidney transplantation and how medications help your body accept the new kidney.

Support Networks and Mental Health

Kidney failure affects not only your physical health but also your emotional well-being. Don’t hesitate to seek support if you’re struggling.

  • Importance of support systems: Lean on loved ones, join kidney failure support groups, or talk to a therapist. Sharing your experiences and building connections with others going through similar challenges can be invaluable.
  • Mental health awareness: It’s common to experience depression, anxiety, or stress when living with kidney failure. Remember, these feelings are valid, and there are resources available to help you cope. Your doctor can provide guidance and resources for mental health support.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Managing your diet plays a crucial role in kidney health. While detailed dietary recommendations will come from a specialized dietician, here’s what to expect:

  • The importance of dietician support: There’s no single “kidney diet.” A dietician will create a meal plan based on your individual health needs and the treatment you choose (considerations for conservative management or dialysis).
  • General tips: Your doctor or dietician will likely discuss ways to manage your intake of sodium, potassium, and fluids. These adjustments help optimize your remaining kidney function.


Living with kidney failure can be daunting, but you are not alone. With proper kidney failure treatment options and support, you can manage your condition and live a fulfilling life. We encourage you to be proactive in your care, ask questions, and make informed decisions alongside your healthcare team.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Contact The Kidney Experts today to schedule a consultation and discuss your kidney failure treatment options.

Additional Resources: