In hemodialysis, blood is taken through a catheter inserted in the external jugular vein. The blood is passed through the hemodialyzer (an artificial kidney) which filters waste products from the cat's blood. The filtered blood is then returned to the cat through a second lumen in the same catheter. The blood is circulated several times during one treatment session. The catheter remains in place for as many sessions as are necessary.
For each dialysis session, the patient is evaluated, the catheter is prepared, the patient is dialyzed, the patient is evaluated again and the catheter is cleaned and treated with heparin. A hemodialysis session lasts from three to five hours.
Hemodialysis is mainly used to treat cats in acute renal failure while their kidneys are recovering their function. Chronic renal failure patients can benefit from a course of hemodialysis prior to or after a kidney transplant procedure.
Few veterinary facilities are able and equipped to perform this procedure at this time.