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How Long Can a Person Be On Dialysis Before Receiving a Kidney Transplant?

written by: Jennifer Gonzalez • edited by: dianahardin • updated: 11/30/2010

When a person's kidneys stop working on their own, hemodialysis may be required. How long can someone live on dialysis? Although this is a scary time in a person's life, it is still possible to live a long and fulfilling life before a kidney transplant is needed.

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    Background

    Over 31 million people in America suffer from having some level of kidney disorder. Out of that 31 million, 300,000 have stage 5 chronic kidney disease or failure, and are on some type of dialysis; 400,000 are at stage 4, and around 7.5 million are at stage 3. The remainder out of that 31 million are somewhere in stages 1 and 2; they may have some kidney damage, but have normal or slightly reduced function in their kidneys. Many people who suffer with kidney disease do not know they have it. The symptoms are very subtle, and tend to stay hidden until late in the disease when the kidneys are no longer able to function properly on their own. While statistics show that this disease is on the rise, early detection can drastically slow the decrease in kidney function.

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    What Is Dialysis And Why Is It Needed?

    There are many different conditions that can cause a person’s kidneys to stop functioning properly. A person that is suffering with diabetes or high blood pressure may be at a higher risk of obtaining some sort of kidney damage. Dialysis is needed when the kidneys are no longer functioning properly on their own. A person’s kidneys act somewhat as the bodies filter. They keep the bodies chemistry in sync by modifying fluids, extracting waste from the body, and keeping the necessary vitamins and minerals at a good balance. When the kidneys cannot perform their tasks on their own any longer, dialysis comes into the picture.

    Dialysis basically acts as your kidneys by filtering your body and replacing essential fluids. There are different types of Dialysis treatments that a person can receive; Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis. Hemodialysis requires a minor surgery where an access point is created in a person's arm. This access point will allow the dialysis machine to connect to the body and circulate the blood. This usually consists of three sessions a week, with each session lasting about five hours. Peritoneal Dialysis uses a solution that drains into the stomach around the intestines. During a minor surgical procedure, a catheter is set in place that will carry the solution in and out of the stomach. The solution remains in your system for two to six hours before it is drained using the catheter. New fluid is then replaced and the procedure will start again. This type of dialysis can be performed by the patient in their own home.

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    How Long Can Someone Live on Dialysis?

    The life expectancy of a person receiving a dialysis treatment is anywhere between 5 to 7 years; however cases have emerged where a person lives a long lifetime while receiving dialysis treatment. Someone with a kidney disorder should highly consider being placed on a list for a transplant. Transplants can come from a non-living person, or a living person that would act as a donor. A kidney donor does not have to be related to the person needing a transplant, but must test positive as a match to the transplant candidate.

    A person who has received a transplant has the potential to live a long and happy life regardless of what statistics show. Remember that each case and every person is different, and will in turn have different outcomes.