Peritoneal Dialysis (PD)

Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a way to cleanse the blood to treat kidney failure. It uses a natural membrane inside your body and a special solution (dialysate). The solution needs to be changed several times a day. This can be done as part of your home or work routine. Or it can be done at night by a machine. Dialysate is put inside your belly (abdomen) through a plastic tube (catheter). This catheter is surgically placed into your abdomen. It takes the catheter about 3 to 4 weeks to “mature” and be available for use. Your doctor may tell you to have this catheter put in place before your kidneys fail completely. 

How PD works

PD uses the natural lining inside your abdomen called the peritoneal membrane. The abdomen is filled with dialysate through the catheter and allowed to remain (dwell) for 3 to 5 hours. The membrane and dialysate then work to clean the blood. The dialysate needs to be changed every few hours. This is called an exchange.

Outline of human figure from the side showing catheter inserted in abdomen. Bag of dialysate is attached to catheter. Dialysate is flowing from bag into abdomen. Waste, fluid, and chemicals flow through peritoneal membrane in abdomen into dialysate. About two to three liters of liquid are used in each exchange. After a few hours, dialysate is drained out of abdomen into empty bag. Fresh dialysate is ready to fill abdomen.

Your experience

  • PD is done at home.

  • A nurse or technician will teach you how to do PD exchanges and care for the PD tube.

  • Your risk for infection in your abdomen (peritonitis) is high with this treatment unless you take much care. 

  • You will need to weigh yourself every day. 

  • You will need to follow a special diet. 

There are 2 ways to do exchanges:

  • Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). With this, you do your own exchanges 3 to 5 times per day , each with a dwell time of about 4 to 6 hours (you can have a longer dwell time overnight). Each exchange takes about 30 to 40 minutes each.

  • Cyclic peritoneal dialysis (CCPD). This uses a machine called a cycler. The cycler does most of your exchanges at night while you sleep. You have a long dwell time during the day. You may also do manual daytime exchanges, which take 30 to 40 minutes each.

Call your health care provider

 Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Chills

  • Dialysate that is cloudy or bloody when it drains from your body

  • Pain in your abdomen or around your catheter

  • Warm, red, or draining skin around your catheter

  • Blocked flow into or out of your catheter

  • Part of your belly appears to be bulging out. This is called a hernia. 



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