How Does an Artificial Kidney Work?

An artificial kidney is a filtering component of a dialysis machine that works to clean the blood in individuals with kidneys that do not function properly, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The artificial kidney filters away waste products such as excess fluids, urea and potassium.

Dialysis procedures that utilize artificial kidneys are referred to as hemodialysis, explains Healthline. During a hemodialysis procedure, a catheter is first inserted in the leg, arm or neck. The catheter creates a pathway for waste products and chemicals to filter out of the blood. Individuals are usually required to undergo treatments up to three times per week.

While hemodialysis treatments are beneficial in improving kidney function, the procedures can also cause complications in certain individuals, notes Mayo Clinic. Low blood pressure is a common side effect of the treatment in individuals with diabetes and may also be accompanied by breathing difficulties and stomach upset. Muscle cramps may also occur; however, this symptom can often be remedied by altering intake of fluids and sodium between treatments. Additional side effects can include itchy skin, low iron levels in the blood and high blood pressure. Individuals who undergo hemodialysis treatments may also experience leg pain and sleep disturbances due to hindered breathing.