Peritoneal Dialysis

Treatment Overview

Peritoneal dialysis uses a membrane inside your body (peritoneal membrane) as a filter. It clears wastes and extra fluid from your body and returns electrolyte levels to normal. Unlike in-center hemodialysis, you don't need to travel to a dialysis center for your treatment. Instead, after being trained at a dialysis center, you will do your treatment at home on your own schedule. Peritoneal dialysis can often be done at night, while you sleep.

You will need to have a catheter placed in your belly (dialysis access) before you start dialysis. Placement is usually done 10 to 14 days before dialysis starts. Some peritoneal dialysis catheters may be used right away (acute-use catheters). But because of a high risk of complications, these catheters are not commonly used.

The process of doing peritoneal dialysis is called an exchange. You will usually complete 4 to 6 exchanges each day using these steps:

  • Fill: Dialysis fluid enters your peritoneal cavity.
  • Dwell: While the fluid is in your peritoneal cavity, extra fluid and waste travel across the peritoneal membrane into the dialysis fluid.
  • Drain: After a few hours, the dialysis fluid is drained and replaced with new fluid.

There are different types of peritoneal dialysis:

Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD).
You change the dialysis solution 4 times a day.
Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD).
It takes 10 to 12 hours and can be done while you sleep.

Discuss these treatment methods with your doctor to decide which one might work best for you.

Things to consider

  • Peritoneal dialysis can be done at home or in any clean place. You may be able to do it while you sleep.
  • You can do it by yourself. You don't have to rely on help from others.
  • You can do it at the times you choose as long as you do the right number of treatments.
  • It has to be done every day of the week.
  • Some people find it hard to do all the required steps.
  • It increases your chance for a serious infection of the lining of the belly (peritoneum).

What To Expect

You may have mild back pain during peritoneal dialysis. Or you may feel like your abdomen is full.

Why It Is Done

Peritoneal dialysis replaces the work of the kidneys after complications of kidney failure develop.

It is not recommended if you have:

How Well It Works

Peritoneal dialysis provides approximately 10% of normal kidney function. It does not reverse chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.


The most common complications from peritoneal dialysis include infection around the catheter site and infection of the lining of the abdominal wall (peritonitis). Less often, there may be problems related to the catheter. But most complications can be managed or prevented.


Current as of: December 17, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Tushar J. Vachharajani MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology