Skip to main content

Discover the Type of Dialysis that is Right for your Lifestyle

Up until the day he learned his kidneys were failing, Joe Grande thought he felt pretty good. The 85-year-old New Yorker had never been seriously ill. Aside from prostate surgery, he had never been hospitalized. But the numbers on his blood test, his doctor said, didn’t lie. “You’ve got to start dialysis,” he told Joe.

“It shocked me,” says Joe. “I couldn’t relate to it. To me, this was just a problem on paper.”

Now, three times a week, a machine cleans Joe’s blood of the wastes his kidneys can no longer remove — a process called hemodialysis (HD). He didn’t like the idea at first. But now, three months into his new routine, Joe has adjusted. “I had no choice but to accept it,” he says. “If I didn’t do dialysis, I knew my disease could lead to heart failure.” 

Not just lifesaving, but life-restoring

Getting diagnosed with Stage 4 or Stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) isn’t easy to process. “It’s an emotional blow,” says Dori Schatell, executive director of Medical Education Institute (MEI), a nonprofit that educates and supports kidney patients and clinicians. “And when you’re emotional, you just cannot take in facts.” That’s why she begins patient education with the good news: dialysis can help most people reclaim their sense of well-being and the lifestyle they enjoyed before their diagnosis. Dialysis also makes it possible for people who qualify for a kidney transplant to wait until a healthy kidney becomes available from a living or deceased donor. 

Dialysis options

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis, where blood is cleaned outside the body; and peritoneal dialysis, where blood is cleaned inside the body.  

View the dialysis infographic

Peritoneal dialysis is done at home, either manually, using gravity, or by machine. You simply attach a bag of dialysis solution to a soft tube that’s been surgically placed in the belly. Several times a day, the solution flows into your body and remains there for several hours before you drain it. Or a machine does this for you while you sleep. 

Hemodialysis, which always involves a machine, can be done in a clinic or at home, during the day or overnight. For hemodialysis, you first need to get an access placed in your arm by a surgeon. The access is where you will connect to the machine. Once connected, you need to sit or recline. Some people do it as they sleep, as treatments generally take four hours. 

Talk to your doctor about which dialysis makes the most sense for your medical needs and lifestyle.

How in-center and at-home dialysis differ

People who get hemodialysis at home feel that it offers them significant advantages over getting in-clinic care. Colleen Kurpinski is one of them. After being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, the Michigan native tried to manage her condition with diet and medication because she still had some kidney function. But over the next two years, her disease progressed. She wound up in the emergency room with kidney failure. Soon after, she began receiving dialysis at a clinic. Each visit left her exhausted. 

On the recommendation of her nurse, she began dialyzing at home. Colleen has since regained the lifestyle she thought was gone forever. Five days a week, her husband helps her connect to a hemodialysis machine to clean her blood. “I can put it off ’til I’ve had my second cup of coffee,” she says. Because it removes water from her body much more gradually than the machines at the clinic, Colleen no longer feels tired and weak. Now she dialyzes more often but spends less time per treatment. She’s making meals, baking and getting outside regularly. “I feel like I did before I found out I had kidney disease,” she says.

Choosing where to do your dialysis infographic

Is home hemodialysis (HDD) right for you?

At-home hemodialysis was ideal for Colleen, but it isn’t for every late-stage kidney patient. Some people may simply not be candidates for home hemodialysis. Others, like Joe Grande, choose in-center care because they don’t want to burden their spouse or a family member with their care, because they don’t want to dedicate space to dialysis equipment or because they are worried they cannot keep the area sterile. 

But fear is by far the biggest barrier, says Schatell. “Patients new to dialysis go into the clinic and see people sitting next to machines the size of a Ford Falcon, with things turning and blood going in and out of tubes and nurses hovering, and think, ‘There’s no way I can do this myself.’ They absolutely can! They just need training and support.” Some people, like Colleen, rely on a partner to connect and disconnect from the machine. Others do it themselves. Room is needed for equipment and supplies, but no more than a closet-sized space. And while the room where patients treat themselves should be clean, it doesn’t have to be sterile. “Some patients dialyze with a pet sitting on their lap,” says Schatell. 

Staying eligible for a transplant — or no longer needing one

Clinical studies show that at-home hemodialysis is safe and effective. In fact, people who get their blood cleaned at home while they sleep can live as long as someone who has received a kidney from a deceased donor. That’s because gentler, more frequent dialysis spares people the sudden drop in blood pressure that deprives organs of oxygen, a phenomenon known as organ stunning. Repeated stunning, says Schatell, can damage the heart. It’s one of the primary reasons why late-stage kidney patients become no longer eligible for a kidney transplant.

For Colleen, treating herself at home is the right choice: “Now that I feel like the old me, all other options, from here on out, are off the table.” Talk to your health care team to see if at-home dialysis can help you feel more like your old self, too. 

Effective solutions that fit a variety of needs

Our health coverage solutions bring together local expertise with the experience of a leading national insurance brand. We provide plans that deliver the services members value with the type of cost clarity that gives peace of mind.

Contact us

Allina Health Aetna Logo Allina Health Aetna Logo

Legal Notices: Health benefits and health insurance plans contain exclusions and limitations.

Health benefits and health plans are offered, underwritten or administered by Allina Health and Aetna Insurance Company (Allina Health | Aetna).  Allina Health l Aetna is an affiliate of Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).  Allina Health | Aetna has sole responsibility for its products and services. Aetna provides certain management services to Allina Health | Aetna. Aetna and MinuteClinic, LLC (which either operates or provides certain management support services to MinuteClinic-branded walk-in clinics) are both within the CVS Health family.

Allina Health | Aetna is the brand name used for products and services provided by Allina Health and Aetna Insurance Company.

This material is for information only and is not an offer or invitation to contract. Health benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. Providers are independent contractors and not our agents. Provider participation may change without notice. We do not provide care or guarantee access to health services. Not all health services are covered. See plan documents for a complete description of benefits, exclusions, limitations and conditions of coverage. Plan features and availability are subject to change and may vary by location. If you are in a plan that requires the selection of a primary care physician and your primary care physician is part of an integrated delivery system or physician group, your primary care physician will generally refer you to specialists and hospitals that are part of the delivery system or physician group. Information is believed to be accurate as of the production date; however, it is subject to change.

*Applies only to covered services at MinuteClinic. Members in indemnity plans are not eligible for this benefit. Such members should refer to their benefit plan documents in order to determine coverage and applicable cost share for walk-in clinic benefits and services, as applicable. Visit for age and service restrictions. Eligible members enrolled in qualified high-deductible plans must meet their deductible. However, such services would be subject to negotiated contract rates. Once the deductible has been met, members will be able to access MinuteClinic services at no cost share. Aetna and MinuteClinic, LLC (which either operates or provides certain management support services to MinuteClinic-branded walk-in clinics) are both within the CVS Health family. Aetna is not responsible for services received at MinuteClinic locations. 98point6 and 98point6 physicians are independent contractors and are neither agents nor employees of Allina Health | Aetna or plans administered by Allina Health | Aetna and does not guarantee that a prescription will be written.

Language Assistance Language Assistance can be provided by calling the number on your member ID Card. For additional language assistance: Español | 中文 | Tiếng Việt | 한국어 | Tagalog | Pусский | العربية | Kreyòl | Français | Polski | Português | Italiano | Deutsch | 日本語 | فارسی | Other Languages…