The treatment for the majority of dialysis patients is hemodialysis (also called kidney dialysis). The vast majority of patients are dialyzed in a free-standing dialysis clinic (chronic patients) while a relatively small number are dialyzed in a hospital (acute patients) and at home-based renal therapies (home and peritoneal dialysis). There are currently over 7,000 dialysis clinics in operation in the United States.
Hemodialysis treatment usually lasts four hours and is performed three times a week. During this procedure, blood is carried from the patient to a dialyzer (artificial kidney), which is a device comprised of thousands of very fine hollow fibers. These fibers create a semi-permeable membrane and as blood flows through inside the membrane dialysate flows in the opposite direction on the outside, removing impurities and excess water and properly adjusting the chemical balance of the blood. The “clean” blood is then carried back into the patient. During treatment, patients are connected to a dialysis machine so movement is limited, however, they are usually positioned in a comfortable chair and may read, write, watch television or sleep.
During dialysis, less than five percent of a patient’s blood is outside their body at any time. However, 5-7 mg of iron is permanently lost during every treatment session, and as these iron losses accumulate over time, iron deficiency develops – leading to iron deficiency anemia.