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Each of us has two kidneys, bean-shaped organs that perform many functions necessary for life. They're located below the ribs, in the back of the abdomen.
Kidneys control your fluid balance, acid-base balance and electrolyte balance. Kidneys produce the hormone that controls your blood pressure. They are also responsible for filtering waste from the blood. Kidneys produce the protein that stimulates the production of red blood cells. When the kidneys are not working well, you have fewer red blood cells. Because red blood cells carry oxygen, you might feel tired and notice your thinking is not as clear as it used to be.
Renal failure occurs when the kidneys fail to function properly. There are two forms of renal failure: acute and chronic. Both forms may be due to a variety of medical problems. Renal failure is often detected by an elevated serum creatinine. When the kidneys malfunction, problems often seen are abnormal levels of fluid, acid, potassium, calcium and phosphate; hematuria; and anemia.
There are three options for treating kidney failure: peritoneal dialysis, hemodialysis or kidney transplant.
Peritoneal dialysis is done through a catheter that is surgically placed in the abdomen. Patients learn how to do this on their own - at home or in the office at regular intervals throughout the day, or using an automated dialysis system overnight.
Hemodialysis is done through a surgically treated graft or fistula, usually in the arm. Hemodialysis is performed at a dialysis unit three times a week. It takes three to four hours each time.
Dialysis can help restore some of the balance lost in kidney failure. However, it does not return a patient to a "normal" level of kidney function.
Transplant has the potential to give you a chance at a life free of kidney failure and dialysis treatments.
Transplants have become a widely accepted option for those with end-stage organ failure. In the U.S., more than 17,000 kidney transplants are performed each year.
Those with end-stage renal disease may be eligible for a kidney transplant, whether or not they are on dialysis. There are some health and age limitations, but all interested patients are encouraged to discuss their individual situations with the Beaumont transplant team.
If you are interested in pursuing a kidney transplant, ask your nephrologist or dialysis unit to refer you to the Beaumont Transplant Program.
Transplanted kidneys can come from a living donor (related or non-related) or a deceased donor.
A living related donor is related by blood. Patients with the option of a living-related kidney transplant have some advantages. Typically, the kidney starts making urine immediately, and it will function longer.
A living non-related donor is a person who is living, but not blood-related. It could be a spouse or a friend.
Deceased donors are those who have been declared brain-dead. That person's family has consented to organ and tissue donation. When you are on a waiting list for a kidney, you are waiting for a deceased donor.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 800-253-5592.