How is Kidney Failure Treated?

To treat ARF, you have to treat the cause (such as blood pressure that is too high or too low, a kidney stone or high blood sugar). Sometimes you need dialysis for a short time.

With CRF, treating the cause (such as high blood pressure and/or high blood sugar) can slow the disease. CRF can lead to end stage kidney disease.

When kidney function falls below 10% of normal, dialysis or a kidney transplant is most often needed, especially if you have signs of uremia (a buildup of waste in the blood), like nausea and itching.

Hemodialysis Treatment
Hemodialysis Treatment
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health

Peritoneal Dialysis of the Abdominal Cavity
Peritoneal Dialysis of the Abdominal Cavity


Dialysis is a way to pump your blood through a machine that filters out the waste and returns the blood to your body. The 2 types of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis:  For hemodialysis, a tube (catheter) is stuck into one of the veins in your neck, or an arm or leg. Hemodialysis is most often done 3 times a week for 3 to 4 hours at a time.

Peritoneal dialysis: Peritoneal dialysis is done through a tube permanently set in your belly.

Most adults have dialysis done in an outpatient hemodialysis center. Most children have peritoneal dialysis done at home.

Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant is when a surgeon puts a healthier kidney from another person into your body. Kidney transplant is the best way to treat many patients with end stage kidney failure.

Kidneys for transplant come from people who have agreed to donate their kidneys when they die (deceased donors) or donated by healthy people (living donors). Living donors are most often family members of the patient. There is a shorter wait time to surgery for a transplant from a living donor. (This is because there is a waiting list for kidneys from deceased donors and not enough donors.) Also, patients with kidneys donated by living donors live longer (and the kidneys last longer) than those with kidneys from deceased donors or who just stay on dialysis.

With modern medical techniques, the living kidney donor doesn't need to be a blood family member to get a good result.

About 90,000 patients are on the wait list for deceased donor kidney transplants in the U.S. But only 10,000 deceased donor kidney transplants are done each year due to the lack of donated kidneys. Another 6,000 kidney transplants are done each year from living kidney donors.