U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Kidney Failure

Kidney disease can get worse over time, and may lead to kidney failure. Kidney failure means advanced kidney damage with less than 15% normal function. Most people with kidney failure have symptoms from the build up of waste products and extra water in their body. End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is kidney failure treated by dialysis or kidney transplant.

If the kidneys fail, treatment options such as dialysis or a kidney transplant can help people live longer and healthier lives. If your kidney disease is progressing, talk with your health care provider about choosing a treatment that is right for you. Learn about what you can do to prepare for kidney failure and treatment.

Treatment

The two main treatment options for kidney failure are dialysis or a kidney transplant. Since the kidneys no longer work well enough to maintain health, the goal is to find a treatment that can replace kidney function. Dialysis and kidney transplants are treatments not cures for kidney failure.

  • Dialysis; Dialysis is a process that filters wastes and water from your blood. There are two types of dialysis.
  • Kidney Transplant; A kidney transplant means having another person's healthy kidney surgically placed in your body.
  • Choosing not to treat with dialysis or transplant; Some people choose not to treat kidney failure with dialysis or a transplant. If this path is chosen, care is still provided by the health care team. Care may include taking medicines to treat symptoms and protect remaining kidney function for as long as possible, as well as advice on diet and lifestyle choices.

Resources are available that may help you pay for your kidney failure treatment.

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Videos

Videos

Will I need dialysis? Approach 1
Will I need dialysis? Approach 1 (0:39)

"A doctor explains that with early identification of kidney disease and treatment, patients may be able to avoid dialysis."

Will I need dialysis? Approach 2
Will I need dialysis? Approach 2 (0:26)

A doctor explains how early detection and treatment may delay the need to go on dialysis.

What is dialysis?
What is dialysis? (1:17)

A doctor explains the purpose of dialysis and explains the difference between hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Is a Kidney Transplant an Option?
Is a Kidney Transplant an Option? (:53)

A doctor discusses the benefits and limits of receiving a kidney transplant.

I feel fine, why do I need to see a surgeon now? Approach 1
I feel fine, why do I need to see a surgeon now? Approach 1 (:51)

A provider explains to a patient why an AV fistula is needed several months prior to dialysis

I feel fine, why do I need to see a surgeon now? Approach 2
I feel fine, why do I need to see a surgeon now? Approach 2 (1:48)

A provider explains why an AV fistula is placed before hemodialysis begins and how hemodialysis treatment works

What is a fistula and how does it work?
What is a fistula and how does it work? (2:22)

A provider explains the purpose, process, and benefits of AV fistula surgery. 

What does a fistula look like?
What does a fistula look like? (1:02)

A provider explains the purpose of a fistula and describes its appearance.

Why is a fistula the best option? Approach 1
Why is a fistula the best option? Approach 1 (1:19)

A provider explains that AV fistula placement is better for dialysis, less likely to become infected, and less likely to clot than an AV graft

Why is a fistula the best option? Approach 2
Why is a fistula the best option? Approach 2 (1:00)

A provider explains why a patient should use an AV fistula rather than other methods to prepare for hemodialysis

What happens if I don't have fistula surgery now?
What happens if I don't have fistula surgery now? (1:10)

A provider explains the importance of AV fistula placement before dialysis to ensure proper preparation to avoid emergency procedures

What are the problems with a catheter?
What are the problems with a catheter? (1:08)

A provider explains the potential problems of using a catheter over an AV fistula.

What should I do to prepare for surgery?
What should I do to prepare for surgery? (1:17)

A provider offers advice on how to prepare for AV fistula surgery and provides tips on how to protect a patient's veins.

How soon after surgery can I use my arm?
How soon after surgery can I use my arm? (0:59)

A provider explains what to expect after surgery and offers advice on how to recover quickly and safely.

Will I have more energy after starting dialysis?
Will I have more energy after starting dialysis? (1:12)

A provider explains what to expect after dialysis and how the procedure will improve a patient's overall well-being.

Additional Reading

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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.


October 2, 2013

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