Nocturnal Hemodialysis

What is hemodialysis?
Hemodialysis uses a dialysis machine and a special filter (called an artificial kidney or a dialyzer) to remove wastes and fluid from your blood. You need a surgically placed access to allow blood to flow from your body to the dialyzer. Special nurses and technicians who are skilled in doing hemodialysis manage the treatment. People who choose hemodialysis usually go to a dialysis clinic three times per week for a three to five hour treatment.

What is nocturnal hemodialysis?
Nocturnal means occurring at night.

Nocturnal dialysis is a slower, longer hemodialysis treatment that takes place at night while you sleep. This longer treatment is for six to eight hours, three times or more a week. You can do nocturnal dialysis at home or at a dialysis center that has a nocturnal dialysis program. Your healthcare provider will help you decide which treatment is right for you.

  • Nocturnal home hemodialysis requires special training to learn how to perform nocturnal hemodialysis treatments at home.  In some cases, you will learn to perform at home nocturnal dialysis treatments with a dialysis partner. The partner may need to be present for training as well as during treatments. This will depend on whether or not remote monitoring services are available. Remote monitoring means a trained nurse oversees your treatment from a location away from your home while you sleep. The nurse can let you know if there is a problem with your treatment.
  • In-center nocturnal hemodialysis requires that you sleep at the dialysis center overnight. Special nurses and technicians who are skilled in doing hemodialysis manage the treatment.

What are the benefits of nocturnal dialysis?
The nocturnal dialysis treatment is slower and for a longer period of time. This means the treatment is more gentle and easier for your body to tolerate, while removing a greater amount of wastes and fluid from your blood. This means that blood is "cleaner" and blood tests may be better. There is also a smaller chance of drops in blood pressure and cramping.

Dialyzing at night while you sleep leaves more time during the day for the things you want to do such as going to work or school, taking care of children, and spending time with family and friends. Most people on nocturnal dialysis say they feel better and have a better appetite.

The diet is less strict for nocturnal dialysis. A dietitian will help you plan a diet based on your dietary needs, the foods you like to eat, and other medical problems. For more information on diet click here.

What are the disadvantages of nocturnal dialysis?
Some people find it difficult to sleep at night while being dialyzed. Nocturnal dialysis programs may not be available in all areas. Talk with your healthcare provider to learn more about options available in your area.

Where can I learn more about options and living well on dialysis?
To learn more about dialysis treatment options, nutrition, coping, and more click here.

If you would like more information, please contact us.

©2014 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.