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Is kidney failure in the elderly treatable?

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Quick Answer

For the elderly, options for kidney failure treatment include dialysis and transplantation, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some choose neither course, treating the complications of kidney failure instead with medications, lifestyle changes, diet and palliative care surgery.

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Kidney dialysis has two different types: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis runs blood through a filtering mechanism outside the body, which returns the clean blood back to the system. This can take place at home or in a dialysis center, taking at least three hours, three times a week. Peritoneal dialysis relies on the abdominal cavity lining to filter the blood. This is possible to do while one is asleep. These treatments replace kidney function but may not be beneficial for people who are 75 or older, according to NIH Senior Health.

Kidney transplantation is an option for many people, including older adults. However, unless one has a relative or spouse willing to donate a kidney, the fact that these organs are in high demand means that the patient can be on the waiting list for several years. People who are comfortable with their accomplishments in life may simply respond to kidney failure by taking medications to maintain the existing level of kidney function as long as possible and moving into palliative care, since the benefits of dialysis can be negligible for those age 75 years or older who have many health problems, reports NIH Senior Health.

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