- Reference Number: HEY-870-2020
- Departments: Renal Service
- Last Updated: 18 November 2020
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Why is it important for me to complete my prescribed haemodialysis sessions?
To achieve the best survival outcomes, patients should complete their prescribed haemodialysis sessions. In most patients this will be four hours, three times a week. This is only to be reduced in exceptional circumstances following careful discussion with your kidney consultant.
What does dialysis do and why is it so important?
Like healthy kidneys, dialysis cleans the blood. It removes waste, salts and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body. It keeps a safe level of certain salts in your blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate.
The dialysis prescription provides instructions the nurse needs to carry out in order to make sure that enough water and waste products are being cleaned from the blood.
The symptoms you may feel if you do not get enough dialysis include:
- nausea or poor appetite
- loss of body weight
If you do not have proper dialysis, you may feel “OK” but be at increased risk of hospital admission or even death.
For a dialysis patient, getting the right amount of dialysis will usually make that person feel better and help lead a more active and healthy life.
The standard dialysis prescription is four hours of dialysis, three times per week (or 12 hours per week). As many litres of blood as possible need to be cleaned throughout these 12 hours therefore blood flow should be as high as possible. How well the blood is cleaned is measured on a monthly blood test. This is known as Urea Reduction Ratio (URR) and should be at least 70%. Good dialysis cannot be shortened below the prescribed time advised by your consultant.
It is worth remembering that kidneys normally work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and this provides between 90 -100% clearance of waste and fluids from the body. 12 hours of dialysis a week is like the kidneys working at only 15% and is a long way from the 168 hours a week that normal kidneys work.
Studies have shown that patients having a good dialysis do much better in the long term and usually live longer than those having inadequate dialysis.
What happens if I decide not to attend or shorten one of my prescribed haemodialysis sessions?
If you do not attend all of your full dialysis session you will be risking your health. You may encounter the following problems:
- High potassium levels which can affect your heart rhythm and can be deadly
- Too much fluid in the body leading to fluid in your lungs, breathlessness, swollen ankles, raised blood pressure and heart failure.
- Itching, feeling tired and exhausted
- Decreased appetite
What if I just missed one dialysis session a month?
The following is based on a standard dialysis prescription of four hours, three times a week.
- Skipping 1 dialysis session a month (or more) increases your risk of death by 30%compared to someone who regularly attends dialysis.
- 19% increased risk of death – if dialysis is between 3½ to 4 hours of dialysis
- 34% increased risk of death- for less than 3½ hours of dialysis. This equates to losing 4 months per year of your life expectancy.
What if I decide not to attend my haemodialysis session?
If you do not attend for a prescribed haemodialysis session a dialysis nurse will ring you at home or on the number that we have recorded for you in your notes.
- We will then ask for an explanation for your non-attendance
- Explain to you why it is important for you to attend all prescribed sessions
- Check that you understand fully the risks and possible consequences of not attending for your dialysis session.
- Inform your kidney consultant and your GP of your decision.
- It will be recorded in your notes your wish not to attend for your treatment and the actions taken and advice given to you.
- If we cannot contact you or a relative, and you have not been admitted to hospital, we may contact the police or ambulance service to check that you are safe and well.
- When you next attend your dialysis session we will re-discuss with you why you did not attend dialysis.
If you do not attend your dialysis regularly, you make this choice at your own risk. Alternative session times are not always available and as a result you may lose your regular time and dialysis slot.
Who should I contact if I want to discuss my dialysis?
You can either talk to your named dialysis nurse, team leader, the dialysis unit manager, your doctor or an appointment will be made to see your kidney consultant.
Who should I contact if I feel unwell?
Contact your doctor or local Emergency Department, especially if you have missed more than one dialysis session.