Five Myths About Dialysis

People with end stage renal disease (ESRD) may require dialysis, treatments that replace kidney function by removing wastes and excess fluid from the body. Although the life-saving nature of dialysis is undisputed, several myths may contribute to common misconceptions about the burden of being on dialysis.

Myth 1: Dialysis isn’t for someone who fears needles. 

FALSE! Fear of needles and the pain associated with needle sticks is common for patients. To ease your fear, medications are available to numb the skin where your vascular access is prior to inserting the needle. Lidocaine, a local anesthetic, may be an option used by your center.

If your access is an arteriovenous (AV) fistula, needles are inserted in the exact same site every treatment, which creates a tunnel similar to a pierced ear.

Another way for patients to ease their fear of needles is self-cannulation, which allows you to insert needles into your own access. Your dialysis care team can teach you how to self-cannulate. Gaining control over the procedure may also make you more comfortable with it. Finally, peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a form of home dialysis that does not use needles.

Myth 2: Dialysis isn’t affordable

FALSE! In 1972, the United States Congress passed legislation to extend Medicare coverage to Americans of any age with ESRD. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established coverage to anyone who:

  • Has worked long enough to earn a minimum number of credits toward retirement under Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board or as a government employee,
  • Is already getting or is eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, or
  • Is the spouse or dependent child of a person who meets either of the requirements listed above.

The dialysis center’s social worker can explain and help you obtain Medicare coverage, assist you with getting secondary insurance or other financial assistance and answer additional questions.

Myth 3: Dialysis can be done only at a center

FALSE! In-center hemodialysis is just one of several dialysis treatment options and it too offers a variety of choices, such as in-center self care and in-center nocturnal dialysis. However, an increasing number of patients are choosing to dialyze at home.

PD is the most common type of home dialysis. It works by using the peritoneal membrane to filter the waste and fluid from your bloodstream. The peritoneal membrane is a thin membrane that lines the abdomen. No needles are involved as the dialysis solution is instilled into the abdomen through a permanent catheter.

Home hemodialysis (HHD) uses a hemodialysis machine to clean the blood the same way as it’s done in a center but from the comfort of a patient’s home.

DaVita’s Treatment Evaluator can help determine which treatment option may best match your lifestyle. Take the results to your doctor to discuss further when choosing your dialysis treatment.

Myth 4: People on dialysis can no longer travel

FALSE! You can still soak up the sun, camp, visit family or travel for work with some advance planning and dialogue between you, your doctor, nurse and social worker. Patients on hemodialysis can arrange treatments at a center at their planned vacation destination. Patients on PD can have supplies directly delivered to wherever they are going. Follow the guidelines of this travel checklist to make traveling on dialysis an easier process. You can also call DaVita Guest Services to help with dialysis plans while traveling at 1-800-244-0680.

Myth 5: There are too many things to learn about dialysis 

FALSE! While there are many things to learn, whatever your treatment choice, there is an entire kidney healthcare team, including nephrologists, nurses, dietitians, social workers, care technicians and others, to support you throughout the dialysis process.

In addition, has various ways that help you find support, get kidney-friendly recipes, access to kidney-specific tools, read education articles and more.