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Hemodialysis, more commonly known as dialysis, is needed when waste products, salt and water build up in the kidneys and the patient has symptoms of kidney failure, such as weakness, persistent nausea, vomiting or confusion, or problems with too much fluid, which can cause severe swelling, difficulty breathing when lying flat, severe high blood pressure or heart failure. Hemodialysis requires a three- to four-hour treatment with a kidney machine three times a week. The kidney machine slowly removes the toxins and excess salt and water by filtering blood through an artificial kidney.

Hemodialysis using a kidney machine requires the placement of intravenous lines similar to having blood drawn. Line placement may damage the small veins in the arm, so patients need to have a venous shunt surgically placed before regular dialysis can be performed. In some situations, like emergencies, dialysis can be performed through a large IV line, but this is usually for temporary situations.

Chronic hemodialysis is performed in an outpatient dialysis center. When needed, emergency dialysis can be performed in the hospital. In addition, if a hemodialysis patient requires hospitalization for other medical problems, dialysis treatments are provided in the hospital dialysis unit and supervised by a nephrologist from UF Health Nephrology.

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