"I think this study is encouraging," said Dr. Orly Kohn, a nephrologist and medical director of home dialysis at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "It shows that overnight dialysis is safe and it's doable."
Kohn said she thinks the results probably would have been even more positive if the overnight dialysis had been given frequently. For example, she said, people who do overnight dialysis at home usually do it six nights a week.
"The general impression of nephrologists is that longer dialysis is better," Kohn said. "The fluid removal rate is slow, and it's the fluid removal that causes a lot of the side effects from dialysis."
Additionally, she said, the comparison group in the study received four to five hours of dialysis each session, whereas many people in the United States receive about three hours per session. So, if the researchers had compared people who were getting nine hours of conventional dialysis with those receiving 21 hours of overnight dialysis, the differences likely would have been greater, she said.
"People who dialyze every day get in a lot more dialysis, plus they have their down time at home rather than in a dialysis center," Provenzano said. "They can read, watch TV, whatever. It makes a huge difference in their lives. Plus, they can eat and drink more liberally, and their blood pressure and blood counts are better."
He advised people to "pick a therapy that fits your lifestyle, while attempting to maximize the time you're on the machine, whether that's in-center nighttime dialysis or at-home dialysis."
The Kidney Foundation has more on dialysis at home.
SOURCES: Robert Provenzano, M.D., chief, nephrology, St. John Hospital and Medical Center, Detroit; Orly Kohn, M
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