What Happens in End-Stage Renal Disease Treatment?

In the United States, roughly 786,000 individuals have end-stage renal disease, also known as renal failure. This condition is the advanced stage of chronic kidney disease and the point when the kidneys can no longer function sufficiently. 

Healthy individuals’ kidneys filter excess fluids and waste from the blood. When they can no longer do so, hazardous levels of liquids, wastes, and electrolytes build up in the body. As a result, ESRD treatment is crucial for patients’ survival. 

This informative article will guide you through some possible treatments for ESRD and provide helpful information for patients and their loved ones. 


Once doctors diagnose a patient with end-stage renal disease, they usually need to start dialysis. This treatment does the kidneys’ job of: 

  • Filtering the blood
  • Removing waste and fluids
  • Balancing electrolyte levels
  • Controlling blood pressure

There are two different types of dialysis—peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis. Specialists, such as a Nephrologist at The Kidney Institute, can help determine which is suitable for you or your loved one.

Peritoneal Dialysis

During peritoneal dialysis, cleansing fluid is inserted into a catheter in a patient’s abdomen. As it runs through the blood vessels in the peritoneum (abdominal lining), the fluid filters and eliminates the waste in the patient’s blood.

When complete, the fluid comes out of the catheter along with any waste products, and patients or caregivers discard it.

Patients can do peritoneal dialysis at home after nurses train them to use the machines and perform their treatment. However, it isn’t the best option for individuals who lack mobility or don’t have a reliable caregiver to assist them.


Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis. It involves a dialysis machine and a dialyzer (artificial kidney) to clean a patient’s blood, eliminating excess salt, fluid, and waste.

Before starting hemodialysis, a patient needs to have a short procedure in which a doctor inserts a tube into the blood vessels. This minor operation is called hemodialysis access. 

Patients usually do hemodialysis at a hospital or medical center. However, sometimes doctors arrange for patients to do their hemodialysis at home. 

Lifestyle Changes

Even if patients receive dialysis treatments regularly, they should couple these with lifestyle changes for optimal results. For example, there are some things that CKD patients should avoid in order to prolong kidney function. 

Here are some possible suggestions a doctor may give patients with ESRD.

Reduce Salt Intake

When we eat foods with added salt, our kidneys must work harder to remove the excess sodium from the blood. While healthy people’s kidneys can handle this task, people with ESRD can’t eliminate sodium on their own. 

Thus, they can do their part to prevent sodium levels from increasing through a healthy diet. They should especially avoid:

  • Fast food
  • Canned goods
  • Frozen dinners
  • Snack foods (popcorn, potato chips, etc.)
  • Lunch meat and cheeses

The best way to keep sodium intake down is by making meals at home with whole, fresh ingredients. 

Avoid Potassium-Rich Foods

Eating foods high in potassium also make the kidneys work harder, so it’s best for people with ESRD to avoid the following:

  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Oranges

Thankfully, there are plenty of low-potassium fruits and vegetables that patients can opt for, which include: 

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Green beans
  • Carrots

Doctors can provide patients with a list of foods they should avoid and foods safe for consumption. 

Decrease Your Protein Consumption

Patients with ESRD often work with dietitians who can help them come up with a meal plan.

They may recommend a low protein diet since studies show that this slows the loss of kidney function. Instead of meats, eggs, and dairy, patients are encouraged to eat more vegetables, fruits, bread, and grains. 

Stay as Active as Possible

Living with ESRD can make maintaining your daily routine a challenge. However, doctors recommend that patients continue to work and do what they enjoy. 

Depending on their circumstances, doctors may even recommend getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, since it reduces stress and is helpful for CKD management.


When it comes to CKD medications, each patient is different. However, some possible medicines that can help include:

  • Phosphate binders (prevent phosphorous levels from increasing)
  • Iron pills or shots (treat anemia)
  • Blood pressure medicines
  • Vitamin D and calcium

Doctors will prescribe CKD medicine according to symptoms, which may not be necessary for everyone with ESRD. 

Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is an ideal treatment for end-stage renal disease patients. This surgical procedure involves taking a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor and placing it into an ESRD patient. 

The process takes time since the donor’s kidney has to be a suitable match. Some individuals receive a kidney from a friend or family member, but if no one they know is a match, they must wait on the transplant list until one becomes available. 

When a matching kidney comes along, the patient receives a call and usually has the surgery promptly. It involves: 

  • Placing the new kidney in the lower abdomen
  • Connecting the blood vessels
  • Attaching the ureter (the tube between the kidney and bladder)

Kidney transplant patients stay in the hospital for at least a few days, sometimes a week. Even after returning home, patients need frequent checkups to avoid complications. 

Doctors often prescribe medications that prevent infection or the patient’s immune system from rejecting their new kidney. 

Once the recovery is complete, the kidney can adequately filter the patient’s blood. As a result, they can stop their dialysis treatments. 

Supportive Care

Some patients decide not to have a kidney transplant or receive dialysis indefinitely. In these cases, doctors do their best to provide supportive care to help them manage their symptoms and keep them as comfortable as possible. 

However, patients who do not treat kidney failure through dialysis or a transplant will eventually pass away. It may take months or years, depending on the severity of their condition. So, if you or a loved one has end-stage renal disease, discussing all the treatment options before deciding on supportive care is best. 

Visit a Nephrologist for More ESRD Treatment Information

Although ESRD is a severe condition that requires treatment from specialists, the outcomes are favorable for those who seek care. If you or a loved one has end-stage renal disease, schedule an appointment with a nephrologist to discuss the best ESRD treatment. 

If you found this post helpful, browse more of our health-related articles and tips for improving your overall wellbeing!

Written by Mia

Hey Everyone! This is Mia Shannon from Taxes. I'm 28 years old a professional blogger and writer. I've been blogging and writing for 10 years. Here I talk about various topics such as Fashion, Beauty, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, and Home Hacks, etc. Read my latest stories.

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