Kidney Dialysis Complications

Many patients just beginning dialysis experience problems at first. Equipment issues, latex allergies, clotting and infections seem to present insurmountable obstacles that need to be worked out. However, the good news is that almost all of these problems can resolved if patients raise these issue with their medical providers. Dialysis requires much adjustment on the part of the patient, and it is important to make sure that the procedure is personally optimized.

Machine issues

Patients who elect to receive hemodialysis can experience nausea, blood pressure crashes and headache, at first. These symptoms suggest that the blood is being filtered too quickly. Settings on the dialysis machine can be changed and the rate of dialysis slowed. Very few dialysis old-timers continue to experience these symptoms.


Stenosis refers to an abnormally narrowing of a passageway in the body, such as an arteriovenous fistula (AV), used for hemodialysis. This can be a very serious complication because it jeopardizes the vascular access, making it impossible to use the fistula. An arteriovenous fistula is considered the best long-term vascular access for hemodialysis, and stenosis is considered the major cause of dysfunction of an AV.


Thrombosis is the medical name for a blood clot. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) warns that if an access develops a clot, patients may need to go to the hospital for treatment. According to the NKF, removing the clot can usually be done on an outpatient basis, and you will not need to stay overnight.

Choosing a fistula over a graft when electing a means for vascular access can minimize clotting problems. According to Fistulas First!, fistulas have far fewer complications compared to grafts.


Infection is a common side effect of peritoneal dialysis. This problem can be local or systemic–and is always cause for concern. Patients who dialyze should regularly check the area of vascular access–be it in the arm, neck, or belly–for signs of redness, heat or irritation, as this may signal the beginning of infection. Likewise, the dialysis provider should be notified about fever, because this may signal systemic infection.


Patients who do peritoneal dialysis occasionally experience a tugging or a pulling on the insides of their belly. This is more common in patients who perform the type of peritoneal dialysis called continuous cycler-assisted peritoneal dialysis (CCPD). According to the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease, patients who perform CCPD use a machine to fill and empty the abdomen three to five times during the night while they sleep. Pain can be eliminated by slowing down the rate at which the dialysis fluid is drained from the belly.

About this Author

Shelly Morgan has been writing and editing for over 25 years for various medical and scientific publications. Although she began her professional career in pharmacological research, Morgan turned to patent law when she specialized in prosecuting patents for various medical devices. She recently began writing about renal disease for various non-profits.