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Home Dialysis Proves Effective for Some Kidney Patients

More people worldwide are suffering from advanced kidney disease. These patients normally go to medical clinics three times a week to have their blood cleansed with a dialysis machine. But some doctors are experimenting with home dialysis as another option. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

At kidney dialysis centers like this, machines do what healthy kidneys do: cleanse people's blood. Kidney patients on dialysis spend 12 hours a week at one of these centers. But what if they could do it at home?

A study at the University of Calgary in Canada compared a small group of patients who receive conventional dialysis to patients who put themselves on dialysis overnight with bedside machines. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In patients with kidney disease, it is not just the kidney that is in trouble. These patients are also at risk for heart attack, stroke and hardening of the arteries.

Dr. Bruce Culleton is one of the lead researchers. "This new type of dialysis reduces the negative effects of kidney disease on the heart, and in doing so, we believe this reduces the risk for future heart attack, heart failure and sudden death."

That may be due to the fact that patients who use home dialysis are younger and slightly healthier than those who go to a center. But Dr. Culleton says there are other benefits as well. "Kidney patients are told to restrict their fluid intake on a daily basis, and they're also told to restrict their fruits as well as their protein, and when you're on nocturnal dialysis, or nighttime dialysis, all those restrictions disappear."

"I remember the first time I had an orange after not having eaten one for about four years. It was unbelievable," says Catherine O'Meara, who has been on nighttime dialysis for a year. "You have a lot more energy and it frees up your whole day to be able to do whatever you want during the day and you don't have the same bouts of nausea that you do with the other types of dialysis."

But there are some concerns about expense and safety. Kidney transplants are less expensive than home dialysis, the machinery has to be carefully maintained and patients have to be carefully trained.

Right now, relatively few people are on home dialysis. But it may eventually play a greater role in helping people with kidney disease lead more normal lives.

Video courtesy of The Journal of the American Medical Association