ExitCare ImageHemodialysis is a way of removing wastes, salt, and extra water from your blood. It is done when your kidneys cannot keep the blood clean. During hemodialysis, your blood travels outside of your body to a machine. A filter in the machine cleans the blood. Hemodialysis is usually done 3 times a week. Visits last 3–5 hours.


An opening must be made to allow blood to be taken from your body and put back into your body (access). It is made weeks or months before you start hemodialysis. It is usually made in your arm.

If you need hemodialysis right away, a thin, flexible tube (catheter) will be placed in your neck, chest, or groin. This type of access is usually temporary.


Hemodialysis is done while you are sitting or leaning back. During hemodialysis you may do any activity as long as you stay sitting or leaning back. Many people sleep, watch television, or read. If you have side effects or feel uncomfortable, tell your doctor. Your doctor may make changes to help you feel more comfortable.

Your hemodialysis visits may look like this:

  1. You will be weighed and your temperature will be taken. Your blood pressure and pulse will be checked.

  2. The skin around your access will be cleaned.

  3. Two needles will be put into the access. They will be connected to a plastic tube. The needles will be taped to your skin so that they do not move. If you have a temporary access, your catheter will be connected to a plastic tube.

  4. Your blood will go through the tube to the machine. The machine will clean your blood. Then your blood will go back to your body. Your blood pressure and pulse will be checked a few times.

  5. Once the procedure is complete, the needles will be removed. A bandage (dressing) will be placed over the access. If your access is a catheter, it will be disconnected.


  • You will be weighed.

  • Your blood will be tested. This is usually done once a month.

  • You may have side effects. These include:

  • Dizziness.

  • Muscle cramps.

  • Feeling sick to your stomach (nausea).

  • Headaches.

  • Feeling tired. You usually feel normal the next day.

  • Itchiness. Your doctor may give medicine to help with this.  

  • Achy or jittery legs. You may feel like kicking your legs. This can cause sleeping problems.  

  • Allergic reaction.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.