Peritoneal Dialysis: Recognizing 3 of the Most Serious Complications

by Alexander Griffin
Peritoneal Dialysis: Recognizing 3 of the Most Serious Complications

Kidney failure can be a debilitating problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that chronic kidney disease impacts 15% of US adults. This means around 35.5 million individuals in America alone suffer from this condition.

Healthy kidneys are capable of round-the-clock blood purification. However, being unable to filter out excessive fluids and pollutants from the blood may require dialysis. In patients with only 10% to 15% kidney function left, doctors recommend this treatment be administered through the arm or the abdomen.

The latter, known as peritoneal dialysis, cleanses the blood through the peritoneum or the abdomen’s lining. Though not a cure for kidney failure, this procedure may restore at least half of the organ’s function. However, there are sometimes serious complications involved.

In this article, we will discuss three of the most common and serious complications patients on peritoneal dialysis may experience.


Peritoneal dialysis requires an artificial access point into the body, gained through a vein in the abdomen lining. A soft hollow tube called a catheter is placed inside the abdominal cavity containing a cleansing fluid called dialysate.

This fluid pulls out the toxins from the blood to remove them from the body. The procedure’s success largely depends upon the catheter’s quality and position. Otherwise, the vascular system is left open and vulnerable to bacteria that may enter into the bloodstream.

If that happens, the patient may develop a life-threatening bacterial infection. One recent example would be the cases associated with the Bard power port. This catheter is placed inside the skin to gain easy access to the vein.

However, patients and physicians have complained that the catheter broke off and even migrated to different parts of the body. Over 50 of them have filed a Bard Power Port lawsuit for injuries like thrombosis, infection, and vein perforation.

According to TorHoerman Law, plaintiffs allege that the manufacturer, Bard Access Systems Inc., was fully aware of the complications but failed to disclose them. If the device migrates to other parts of the body, its pieces may pierce through organs like the gallbladder.

Healthcare professionals must check the catheter’s quality before use and insert it securely. The patient must also follow their doctor’s instructions regarding catheter care to avoid developing an infection, especially since peritoneal dialysis can be done at home.


As per Cleveland Clinic, a hernia commonly occurs in one’s groin area or abdomen when an organ pushes through its muscles. The condition appears like an odd bulge and may cause much discomfort or pain.

In the case of peritoneal dialysis, the patient must hold fluid in their abdomen for extended periods. This often puts excessive strain on the abdominal muscles, thereby weakening them. The patient is now at risk of developing a hernia.

A hernia usually only worsens with time as the organ is unable to get back into its position. If timely surgery is not performed, the affected tissue may lose all blood supply causing necrosis. The patient will experience excruciating pain.

Hernia may take place at the time of catheter placement itself but is often a late complication. As such, it may appear even after a year of peritoneal dialysis treatment.

Weight Gain

The dialysis fluid used to cleanse the blood is made of highly concentrated dextrose. This enables a larger volume of fluids and wastes to move into the abdominal cavity. Dextrose is predominantly sugar, which the body may absorb with each session of peritoneal dialysis.

The patient is at risk of gaining excessive weight as a result of the calories added by the dialysis fluid. Also, patients on dialysis are usually required to follow a highly restricted liquids-only diet. Severe thirst may lead to noncompliance with this diet, further putting them at risk of gaining weight. Not to mention this will disrupt the outcome of the treatment.

Nephrologists must keep an eye on their patients through regular blood sugar tests. The levels may shoot up suddenly, and the patient may develop Type II diabetes. If patients also experience that they’re putting on weight speedily, it’s best to discuss it with their doctor. The latter will recommend ways to prevent excessive weight gain without compromising the dialysis treatment.

Parting Thoughts

As per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), around 808,000 people across the US currently have end-stage renal disease. While 31% have received a kidney transplant, 69% are surviving on dialysis.

Though peritoneal or hemodialysis cannot cure the condition, certain steps can improve patient outcomes. Doctors and nurses must do their bit to ensure the procedure is carried out properly with well-positioned and clean catheters.

Patients must make up their minds to prioritize their health. They should follow their diets strictly, exercise regularly, attend all appointments, and take their medications on time. These will undoubtedly improve their quality of life.

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