Icon - Centre-based haemodialysis

Centre-based haemodialysis

Centre-based haemodialysis usually takes place in a hospital or ‘satellite’ dialysis unit. The treatment itself is the same as home haemodialysis.

There is also a special version of haemodialysis known as haemodiafiltration, which cleans the blood in a slightly different way. It’s becoming more widely available. Some people do better on haemodiafiltration, particularly those on dialysis for many years.

With centre-based haemodialysis, appointments are usually three times a week. Many units offer morning or afternoon sessions and a few hospitals offer overnight sessions, with treatment while you sleep. Once arranged, you will usually dialyse at the same times every week.

Each treatment lasts four to five hours. To allow for travel, preparation and completion of the dialysis, you’ll need to set aside a total of six to eight hours.

Travel to the dialysis unit is usually your responsibility but if you need assistance talk to your healthcare team about local transport options.

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Useful resources
‘Lina’s Story’
This video presents the story of Lina, who is on centre-based dialysis, and how she maintains her lifestyle with dialysis treatment. The video was produced by Fresenius Medical Care. You can watch it here.

‘Unit-based Dialysis’
This information sheet provides a quick summary of important details about centre-based, with supporting photographs. You can download the sheet here.

Fact sheets
You can download our fact sheet about vascular access for dialysis here.

You can download our fact sheet with general information about haemodialysis here.

Support for decision making
You are ready to choose when you’ve learned everything that you need to know about each option. That means finding out the information that’s relevant and understandable to you.

‘My Kidneys, My Choice’ is a useful decision aid that will help you to make your choice. You can find a lot of helpful advice, including information about the decision-aid here.

Your kidney forum
You may also wish to visit our onsite forum to read about the experience of others on dialysis, ask a question or to post about your experience on dialysis. Visit Your Kidney Forum here.

Effect on lifestyle

Activities are limited during dialysis treatment and you can feel tired after treatment. You can read, chat, play games, watch TV, write, use a laptop or sleep, but you cannot get up and move around. Some people do gentle exercise while on dialysis.

When you are not on dialysis you can work, attend social functions, exercise and carry on your usual role with your family. Generally, you will need to modify your diet and fluid intake, with guidance from a renal dietician.

Advantages and disadvantages

Centre-based dialysis provides a number of advantages, including:

  • The dialysis is supported by a health professional.
  • You have days off between treatments when you can carry on with your usual activities.
  • You will often meet the same people when you go in for dialysis and can share experiences.
  • Home and dialysis are kept separate.

There are some disadvantages:

  • You can usually only dialyse three times a week, which is not as beneficial for your health as home dialysis.
  • You need to restrict your diet and fluid intake between dialysis sessions.
  • Travel to and from dialysis can be time-consuming and expensive.
  • You have fixed appointments for dialysis and it’s not possible for many units to be flexible.
  • Over time your treatment may be provided by different healthcare professionals.

These are all considerations to discuss with your doctor and healthcare team when planning the management of your dialysis.

Getting started

Getting started on centre-based dialysis 

Dialysis is started when you no longer feel well enough to live your usual life, have excess fluid swelling, or if any of your blood results show levels of wastes that are becoming dangerous to your health.

Before you start on haemodialysis there are a few steps you need to take. Because these can take up to six months your doctor will usually refer you early.

You need to:

  • have an assessment about the type of dialysis access you will need
  • have surgery to create your dialysis access (this should take place six weeks before you start dialysis)
  • book your first dialysis appointment
  • organise transport to get you to and from dialysis.

You will often start dialysis at a hospital clinic or a large satellite unit. You don’t need to be in hospital to start dialysis. If there’s a smaller clinic closer to home that has spare dialysis appointments, you should be able to move to that clinic once you are well on dialysis.

With centre-based dialysis, the dialysis access, machine and process are the same as for home dialysis. The difference is that the dialysis nurses at the clinic or unit help you with your dialysis or, if necessary, manage the whole process. You can see more about how dialysis works here.

Urgent dialysis start
Some people need to start dialysis urgently. When this happens, a temporary dialysis access (catheter) is used. If urgent dialysis is needed you will usually stay in hospital for a few days.

Transport to the dialysis unit is usually your responsibility, but if you need assistance talk to your healthcare team about local transport options. You can find information about transport support schemes here.

If you live in a regional area and need to live away from home or travel a long distance for dialysis, you may be able to access the transport assistance scheme for your state. You can find information about the schemes here.

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