The treatment of kidney failure

The renal unit

Renal Units vary in size and in the way they are organised. Generally, however, they will have the following departments or areas:

Renal Outpatient Department

Renal Wards

The Haemodialysis Unit

The Peritoneal Dialysis Unit

Renal Outpatient Department:

  • Whatever form of treatment you have, you will be seen regularly in the Renal Unit Outpatient Department. If you have a kidney transplant, you will continue to come to this Department for monitoring.

  • At each appointment, your blood pressure and weight will be recorded and monitored; your urine will be tested for any infection (which can be treated with antibiotics); and your blood will be analysed to check the rate of your kidney failure or how your transplant is working.

  • You will see one of the doctors here. You may also see other staff such as the dietitian or nurse specialists on some of your visits.

  • Your Outpatient Department will be part of your "support system" - the staff will answer your questions, teach you about your illness and your health, and help you plan your pathway of care.
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Renal wards care for:

  • Patients with acute/temporary kidney failure

  • Patients who are admitted for surgery to have a catheter or fistula inserted before starting dialysis.

  • Patients with kidney disorders, who are having investigations or special care which needs admission.

  • Dialysis or transplant patients who are unwell and need assessment.


So it is probable that, at some time, you will need to stay on a Renal ward.

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The Haemodialysis Unit:

  • A Haemodialysis Unit will dialyse patients who have acute kidney failure as well as those who will need dialysis in the long term. Patients from other areas may be dialysing while on holiday.

  • Haemodialysis patients usually need to be on a machine for 4 or more hours, usually three times a week. There are usually different shifts each day - one in the morning, afternoon, evening, and perhaps a night shift. There will always be a member of staff in the Unit to deal with any difficulties you may have and to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible.

  • Haemodialysis is painless, and most patients pass the time in activities such as reading, writing, sleeping, knitting, listening to music on a walkman, watching TV - or just chatting.

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The Peritoneal Dialysis Unit:

  • If you are going to have CAPD or APD, this department will train and support you in using the techniques and procedures you need to know. Peritoneal Dialysis Units have an "on-call" system operating at night - there is always someone available to help patients who have problems or difficulties at home.

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