The First Needle – What to Expect During Dialysis

The word ‘dialysis’ can bring scary images to your mind, especially if this is your first time. Dialysis is a safe and tested mechanism that comes into picture when your kidneys are unable to function on their own. At Thermaissance, we believe that authentic knowledge on what to expect during dialysis and mental preparation can make your first time experience easier, and before you know, it will become the ‘new normal’ of your life. Read on to know more.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a medical procedure that

  1. eliminates waste, salt and excess water to prevent them from building up in the blood
  2. keeps an acceptable level of chemicals in the blood (potassium, sodium, bicarbonate, calcium etc.)
  3. regulates blood pressure, and
  4. boosts red blood cell production to correct anaemia.

The process may be conducted about 3 times a week, depending on your physician’s recommendation. A session could last for about 3-4 hours, and the sessions may be conducted at a hospital, a dialysis treatment centre, or even at the comfort of your own home.

Preparation for a Dialysis Session

To begin with, it is important not to miss any dialysis session, and it is advisable to reach early for your sessions so that your appointment doesn’t get delayed.

The body part with the dialysis access areas will then be washed. After checking your vitals (blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate, etc.), your service providers will insert needles in the cleaned area to enable outflow and inflow of blood. The first time this is done, you may feel a slight pinching pain, or just mild irritation – you can request the dialysis administrator to numb the area partially if needed.

During Dialysis

Once the needles are in place, the port will then be connected to an equipment that cleans the blood and then returns it to the body. Your blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored all along. After a while, you will get used to it and may feel little or no discomfort. During the session you can listen to music, watch a movie, read, or chat with family or fellow patients. You can even take a nap. Do not touch the area, and make sure that you sit in the most comfortable position, since you will have to remain in the same posture for 3-4 hours.

The first few sessions may be a little uncomfortable as you may experience nausea, dizziness, or cramps. While these are expected to go away on their own accord, you must inform the dialysis administrator and your physician about these.

Your physician will also share with you a special dialysis diet. It is extremely important that you follow this diet stringently so that there is minimum waste build-up in your body and you have a comfortable dialysis experience.

While you are on dialysis, knowing what to expect can be crucial. For example, seek medical help immediately if you notice:

  • any kind of bleeding
  • any sign of infection, such as change in coloration of skin around the needles, inflammation, pain, change in body temperature or pus accumulation
  • Coldness, numbness, or weakness in the channel area

Post Dialysis

Once the dialysis session is complete, the administrator will detach the equipment, remove the needles, and help you redress. If the following symptoms last more than 2 days after a session, call your physician immediately:

  • Uncontrollable itching
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Severe bowel dysfunction
  • Disorientation or drowsiness

Dialysis need not stop you from working, travelling, or enjoying your life. With a little care and healthy lifestyle, you can easily get used to the new life. While travelling, just ensure that your dialysis appointments are booked at the destination location well in advance.

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