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Kidney disease & treatment

Treatment options

When your kidneys no longer work, you need to choose a treatment option to replace some of the work your kidneys were doing.

There are 2 kinds of treatments:


Dialysis uses a filtering machine or a special fluid in your belly to filter waste out of your body. Dialysis can’t replace other functions of your kidneys, but it can keep you alive while you wait for a transplant or if you can’t have or don’t want a transplant.


A kidney transplant is a surgery where doctors take a kidney out of someone else and put it into your body. It can help you live longer and more comfortably than using dialysis. Not everyone is healthy enough to get a kidney transplant. There are 2 kinds of transplant:

  • Deceased donor transplant: This is when the kidney comes from a donor who has recently died
  • Living donor transplant: This is when the kidney is donated by someone who is alive (a donor can live a healthy life with only 1 kidney)

Kidney treatment by the numbers:

people are on dialysis

have a working kidney transplant

Each year about 20,000 people
get kidney transplants from deceased or living donors. 

Most patients who get a transplant:

live about
11 years longer
than patients on dialysis

have a better quality of life than people on dialysis

Most patients with kidney disease who get a transplant live longer and have a better quality of life than patients who choose to stay on dialysis for a long time. On average, people live for about 6 years after starting dialysis. On average, people live about 17 years after getting a transplant.

There are websites called iChooseKidney and MyTransplantCoach that can help you compare how long people like you usually live based on what treatment they get. You can print out your results and show them to your doctor to help you make a decision about what’s right for you.

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