How Long Can a Person Survive Without Dialysis?

When the kidneys fail, dialysis is a lifesaving treatment that helps to filter out waste products from the blood. But what happens if someone stops receiving dialysis treatment? In this article, we will explore how long a person can survive without dialysis and what factors can influence their survival rate.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a medical treatment that helps to purify the blood of individuals whose kidneys can no longer function properly. The two main types of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis

Hemodialysis involves a machine that is used to filter the blood outside of the body. Blood is removed from the body and passed through a dialyzer, which removes waste products, excess water, and other impurities. The clean blood is then returned to the body. Hemodialysis typically takes place at a dialysis center, and treatment sessions usually last for three to four hours, three times a week.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal Dialysis is an alternative method where a solution called dialysate is introduced via a catheter through the abdomen into the peritoneal cavity. The dialysate flows in and out of the cavity through the catheter, filtering the blood through the peritoneum. The patient or a caregiver is trained to perform the exchanges, which can be done at home, allowing for more flexibility.

How Long Can You Live Without Dialysis?

On average, a person can survive for up to two weeks without dialysis, provided that they have no other serious medical conditions that would lessen their chances of survival. However, the length of survival without dialysis depends on multiple factors, including the individual’s age, overall health, and the cause and severity of kidney failure.

Kidney Function

The length of time a person can survive without dialysis largely depends on the remaining function of their kidneys. In general, if a person has more than 20% of their kidney function remaining, they can survive without dialysis for several months to a year, although they may experience increased fatigue and other symptoms of kidney failure.

Age

Age is a significant factor in predicting survival rates in kidney failure patients. Older people tend to have other medical problems and may not respond as well to dialysis. On average, elderly patients with kidney failure are less likely to survive for a long time without dialysis than younger patients.

General Health

The person’s overall health is also a crucial factor. If a person has other serious medical conditions such as heart disease, liver disease, or diabetes, their survival without dialysis may be reduced. In contrast, if a person is otherwise healthy, they may survive for longer periods without dialysis.

Cause and Severity of Kidney Failure

The cause of kidney failure can also contribute to how long a person can survive without dialysis. For instance, acute kidney injury (AKI) caused by infections, low blood pressure, or drug toxicity can usually be treated with a period of rest and hydration, and dialysis may not be necessary.

In contrast, chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition that typically requires ongoing dialysis or a kidney transplant. The worse the CKD, the higher the risk of death without dialysis.

The Benefits of Dialysis

While some people may question whether they need dialysis, the treatment provides benefits that can help prolong life, including:

  • Reducing waste products in the blood that can cause sickness and discomfort
  • Removing excess fluids that can cause swelling, shortness of breath, and high blood pressure
  • Maintaining proper balance of minerals and electrolytes in the body
  • Reducing the risk of complications, such as heart disease and infections

When is Dialysis Not Needed?

In some cases, dialysis is not needed, such as when a person’s kidneys are only partially damaged or when they are expected to recover from acute kidney injury. Other factors that may help determine whether or not dialysis is the right treatment include the individual’s age, overall health, and the underlying cause of kidney failure.

Can Dialysis be Stopped Once it Begins?

Yes, a person can decide to stop dialysis treatment once it begins. This decision is often made by the patient, family members, or healthcare providers, based on the individual’s wishes and quality of life. However, stopping dialysis is not recommended when there are no other options for treating kidney failure as it can quickly lead to life-threatening complications.

The Importance of Monitoring

When undergoing dialysis, it is crucial to undergo regular monitoring to ensure that the treatment is working effectively. This includes monitoring of blood pressure, blood flow, and electrolyte levels.

Conclusion

The survival rate of a person without dialysis depends on several factors such as age, general health, and the severity of their kidney failure. However, patients should remember that dialysis has many benefits and can help prolong life by reducing waste products, balancing minerals and electrolytes, and reducing the risk of complications.

References

  • The National Kidney Foundation. (2018). Dialysis: What You Need to Know. Retrieved March 2, 2021, from https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/dialysisinfo
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). How long can you live with chronic kidney disease?. Retrieved March 2, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/expert-answers/how-long-can-you-live-with-chronic-kidney-disease/faq-20135203
  • Fang, C., & Li, J. (2014). Survival prediction in chronic dialysis patients. Iranian Journal of Kidney Diseases, 8(1), 1-6.

FAQs

  • How long can a person survive without dialysis?

    On average, a person can survive for up to two weeks without dialysis, provided that they have no other serious medical conditions that would lessen their chances of survival. However, the length of survival without dialysis depends on multiple factors, including the individual’s age, overall health, and the cause and severity of kidney failure.

  • What happens if a person stops receiving dialysis treatment?

    If a person stops receiving dialysis treatment, their body will quickly build up waste products and fluids that can cause life-threatening complications. It may cause symptoms like fatigue, swelling, weakness, and shortness of breath, which will increase over time. Ultimately, kidney failure can lead to coma and death if left untreated.

  • Is dialysis required for all forms of kidney disease?

    No, dialysis may not be required for all forms of kidney disease. For instance, acute kidney injury caused by infections or low blood pressure can usually be treated with a period of rest and rehydration, and dialysis may not be necessary. If the individual’s kidneys are only partially damaged, they may not need dialysis treatment.

  • Can dialysis be stopped once it begins?

    Yes, a person can decide to stop dialysis treatment once it begins. However, stopping dialysis is not recommended when there are no other options for treating kidney failure as it can quickly lead to life-threatening complications.

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