The Dialysis Machine

Kidneys play an important role in the body’s internal functions. When the kidneys fail in their normal operation, immediate actions must take place to maintain that person’s health and well-being. Dialysis treatments make a normal life possible for someone with renal failure, with the dialysis machine key to the process. The dialysis machine acts as an artificial replacement for the kidneys, performing basically the same function as these body organs.

Dialysis

Dialysis comes from the Greek work dialusis, which means dissolution; a perfect description of what the process of dialysis does. It removes waste and excess water from the blood. People who have a kidney injury, acute renal failure or end stage kidney disease must have dialysis performed on a regular basis. In some, it is a temporary measure until the person can receive a kidney transplant.

The Dialysis Machine

As a dialysis technician, one needs to become familiar with the machines used in the renal dialysis procedure.  The dialysis machine mimics the functions of the human kidney in that it removes urea and some salts and excess water from the blood. The patient’s blood is pumped into the machine where it is “cleaned” with a fluid called dialysate. Wastes are absorbed from the blood and get washed away.


Above: A Hemodialysis Machine in Use

The dialysis machine does constant monitoring of the solution of dialysate, keeping it with the correct balance of chemicals needed to do the job. The machine also monitors the blood flow and ensures it is maintained sufficiently.

Parts of a Dialysis Machine

There are a number of parts to a dialysis machine. As a patient’s blood is removed and cleaned and then returned to the body, the machine works to monitor the progress and ensure all components are operating properly.

Dialysis Machine Blood Pump and Tubing

A blood pump simply pumps the blood from the body into the machine through specially made tubes. The blood flows into the dialyzer, where the actual cleaning takes place. The tubes have two air traps attached to ensure air does not get into the bloodstream. An additional safety factor is an air sensor, which shuts down the entire operation if air does get by the air traps.

The Syringe

Because blood has a tendency to clot when moving through the tubes, a syringe is attached to the dialysis machine tubing. This syringe contains a drug called Heparin, and this is pumped into the blood during the treatment. It is what prevents the blood from clotting.

The Dialyzer and Dialysate

The dialyzer is the key part of a dialysis machine where the cleaning of the blood takes place. The blood compartment of the dialyzer contains a membrane that does the filtering of wastes from the blood, using the dialysate solution.

The dialysate, also known as the “bath,” is made up of purified water, bicarbonate and a solution referred to as “acid.” This acidified fluid also contains minerals and electrolytes. Although the dialysate never actually mixes with the blood, it “pulls” the impurities from the blood through a membrane filter. Once the blood is thoroughly cleansed, it is then pumped back into the body. Only about a pint of blood is in the machine at any one time.

Alarms

Alarms are installed on a dialysis machine, in order to protect the patient from any errors in functioning. The things that are monitored with alarms include:

  • Blood pressure within the machine
  • Blood pressure of the patient
  • Blood flow
  • Temperature
  • Dialysate mixture

Manufacturers of Dialysis Machines

Here is a list of some of the major manufacturers of dialysis machines.

  • Baxter International Inc.
  • Althin Healthcare, Inc.
  • Gambro
  • Fresenius Medical Care
  • Wilmed Global – reconditioned machines
  • NX Stage – home dialysis machines

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