Artificial kidney machines have been developed that make use of dialysis to purify the blood of persons whose kidneys have ceased to function. Known as hemodialysis, this procedure has saved the lives of many persons suffering from renal failure. In such machines, blood is circulated on one side of a semipermeable membrane (often cellophane) while a special dialysis fluid is circulated on the other side. The dialysis fluid must be a solution that closely matches the chemical composition of the blood. Metabolic waste products such as urea and creatinine diffuse through the membrane into the dialysis fluid and are discarded, while loss by diffusion of substances necessary to the body (such as sodium chloride) is prevented by their presence in the dialysis fluid.
In peritoneal hemodialysis, the dialysis fluid is introduced into the abdominal cavity. Waste products leach from the blood vessels into the fluid, which is later drained from the patient. Home peritoneal dialysis machines that release patients from dependence on hospital dialysis (usually three 4-hr visits weekly) have been available since the 1980s. See diffusion.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.