Kidney Failure

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What is Kidney Failure?

Kidney disease can get worse over time and may lead to kidney failure. If less than 15 percent of your kidney is working normally, that’s considered kidney failure. You may have symptoms from the buildup of waste products and extra water in your body.

The more you know about kidney failure ahead of time, the better prepared you may be to make a treatment choice and take charge of your care.

Nurse Making Notes During Home Visit With Senior Couple

Choosing a Treatment

Learn about kidney failure treatment options early. Three treatment options filter your blood— hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and kidney transplant. A fourth option—conservative management—offers care without dialysis or transplant. Each treatment has pros and cons, and your choice will affect your daily life.


Hemodialysis is a treatment to filter wastes and extra water from your blood. A machine pumps your blood through a filter outside of your body and returns filtered blood to your body. You can have this treatment in a center—usually three times each week—or at home.

Peritoneal Dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis is a treatment for kidney failure that you can do at home. This type of dialysis uses the lining of your belly to filter wastes and extra fluid from your body.

Kidney Transplant

During transplant surgery, a healthy kidney from a donor is placed into your body. The new, donated kidney does the work that your two kidneys used to do. After your transplant, you will need to take medicines every day to make sure your immune system doesn’t reject the new kidney.

Conservative Management

Conservative management for kidney failure means that your health care team continues your care without dialysis or a kidney transplant. Treatment goals are to preserve kidney function and quality of life as long as possible and to plan for end-of-life care.

Eating Right

When you have kidney failure, what you eat and drink can help you maintain a healthy balance of nutrients, salts, and minerals in your body and make your treatments work better. Work with a dietitian to create your eating plan.

Clinical Trials

The NIDDK and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) support and conduct research into many diseases and conditions.

View clinical trials that are currently recruiting volunteers.

Related Research & Statistics

Last Reviewed October 2017

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Stephanie Mahooty, DNP, MSN, Renal Medicine Associates; Gayle Romancito, RN, Indian Health Service; Jane Schell, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics, Division of Renal-Electrolyte