Treatment Options – General Overview


Questions to Ask Your Doctor?

  1. When will I need dialysis?
  2. How long will it be before I need dialysis?
  3. What are my treatment options?
  4. What should I consider when choosing the best option for me?
  5. How will I know which one is best for me?
  6. Who can I turn to, to get the answers I need?
  7. In terms of my health, am I able to have a transplant?

Once your kidneys stop working and your doctor decides it is time to start treatment, the two of you will decide which kind of dialysis is best for you. Kidney failure is treated with a special diet, medicines, and regular dialysis treatments. Your treatment is based on factors such as: age, the type of kidney disease, state of health, and lifestyle.

Another way to treat kidney failure is transplantation. Kidneys are transplanted from persons who have recently died or from living donors. You and your doctor will want to consider many factors before deciding whether or not you would like to receive a transplant.

The most common treatment options are in-center hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. However, other forms of home hemodilysis are becoming popular as patients explore ways to have more control of their dialysis schedule and day-to-day care.

Currently, daily and nocturnal home hemodialysis are not yet offered in all locations. If you are interested in these modalities, please check to see if they are offered in your area.

Throughout this section on treatment options you will be able to:

  • read a short description of the treatment option
  • learn some of the pros and cons of each
  • review questions to ask your doctor (or use the questions to guide your study and research); print questions on each page for each option or download questions for the entire treatment options section [PDF, 305Kb]
  • links to additional information
  • read stories from patients taking about their experiences with each option

Some pages in this section will include a brief test which you can use to check what you know and take again to compare and see how much you have learned. You can use the online questionnaire below to submit any questions you would like to see included as part of this treatment options section or you may use it to request monthly email bulletins on treatment options issues.

By learning about your treatment, you can work with your health care team to give yourself the best possible results so that you can lead a full, active life.

Selecting a vascular access:

Except for individuals receiving a preemptive kidney transplant, most patients will be faced with having to select their type of blood access. For kidney patients, thier vascular access is their "lifeline." Because this is an important choice affecting both treatment options and quality of treatment outcomes, there is a separate page with information on vascular access types and selection. Please review this page before or along with your review of treatment options.

Which option fits your lifestyle?

Take a brief online quiz and see which option best matches the way you live.

Finding a facility or dialysis center:

Selecting a treatment option is only one part of the equation. Identifying and choosing a facility or dialysis center will be an important component of your care. Insurance coverage or other considerations may limit you choices but chances are that you will be able to select your facility. If possible visit the facility to take a tour and talk to patients and staff. Download a dialysis center checklist [PDF, 193Kb]created to help you ask the questions you need to make an informed decision.

Use the information available through Dialysis Facility Compare to:

To learn about other features, download brochure: Dialysis Facility Compare [PDF, 1.85Mb]

  • Identify Medicare certified facilities in your area
  • Compare the services or options available at each facility (for example, home hemodialysis, in-center nocturnal, peritoneal dialysis etc.)
  • Review and compare facility patient treatment outcomes

Visit the Dialysis Facility Compare website to learn how this tool can help you find the right facility. Test your knowledge of Dialysis Facility Compare by taking a short quiz.

For more information on treatment options:

Kidney Failure: Choosing a Treatment That's Right for You
This booklet provides an overview of the treatment options which include hemodialysis (HD), peritoneal dialysis, and kidney transplantation. Also provides a list of resources for more information.

This information is also available in Spanish:
Insuficiencia renal: Cómo escoger el tratamiento que más le conviene

Let’s Talk About Dialysis Options
Three-Minute Life Options Movie on Let’s Talk About Dialysis Options, in English and Spanish, to help dialysis patients understand why replacing a hemodialysis catheter with a fistula is so important. [Click on links below to access.]

Patient Stories:

Living well on dialysis
A patient's story of 30 years on dialysis, including self cannulation using the buttonhole technique.
By Diana Reynolds Roome

A “New Normal”: Life on Dialysis—The First 90 Days
Written by people who have been on dialysis, this booklet is the second of a two-part series addressing the unique issues of dialysis treatment, with practical advice on ways to cope with this new and unfamiliar world. See Getting Ready for a “New Normal” [11-10-0306] for those considering or preparing for dialysis.  [Published by the National Kidney Foundation]

Kidney Steps: a 5-Step Survival Guide for Those with Diabetes, Hypertension or Kidney Issues
By Victoria Hulett and Jennifer Waybright and edited by Tim Taber MD of Indiana University Health
Written by a kidney patient and her transplant donor daughter, this book tells about kidney issues, self-management of health conditions, explains CKD, and gives tips for diet and exercise. It also includes quizzes, functions of the kidneys, causes of kidney failure, and information about kidney transplants and donors in an easy to understand way. The authors maintain a website and blog spot with lifestyle tips, recipes and personal updates.



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