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The Kidney Failure Glossary A – D


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access (AK-sess): in dialysis, the point on the body where a needle or catheter is inserted. See arteriovenous fistula, graft, and vascular access and catheter.

acute (uh-KYOOT): refers to conditions that happen suddenly and last a short time. Acute is the opposite of chronic, or long lasting.

acute kidney injury (uh-KYOOT) (KID-nee) (IN-jur-ee): sudden and temporary loss of kidney function. See chronic kidney disease.

albumin (al-BYOO-min): the main protein in blood. Large amounts of albumin in the urine may be a sign of chronic kidney disease. See urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio.

albuminuria (al-BYOO-min-YOO-ree-uh): a condition in which the urine has more than normal amounts of a protein called albumin. Albuminuria may be a sign of chronic kidney disease. See urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio.

allograft (AL-oh-graft): an organ or tissue transplant from one human to another.

amyloidosis (AM-ih-loy-DOH-siss): condition in which a proteinlike material builds up in one or more organs. This material cannot be broken down and interferes with the normal function of that organ. People who have been on dialysis for several years often develop amyloidosis because the artificial membranes used in dialysis fail to filter the proteinlike material out of the blood.

anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh): a condition in which the number of red blood cells is less than normal, resulting in less oxygen carried to the body’s cells. Anemia can cause extreme fatigue. Anemia is common in people with chronic kidney disease or those on dialysis. See erythropoietin.

Arm with an arteriovenous fistula.
Arteriovenous fistula

antibiotic (AN-tee-by-OT-ik): a medicine that kills bacteria.

anuria (an-YOO-ree-uh): a condition in which the body stops making urine.

arterial line (ar-TIHR-ee-uhl) (lyn): in hemodialysis, the tubing that takes blood from the body to the dialyzer. See hemodialysis under dialysis.

arteriovenous (AV) fistula (ar-TIHR-ee-oh-VEE-nuhss) (FISS-tyoo-luh): surgical connection of an artery directly to a vein, usually in the forearm, created in people who will need hemodialysis. The AV fistula causes the vein to grow thicker, allowing the repeated needle insertions required for hemodialysis. Development of the AV fistula takes 4 to 6 months after surgery before it can be used for hemodialysis. The AV fistula is the preferred method of access. See hemodialysis under dialysis.

arteriovenous (AV) graft (ar-TIHR-ee-oh-VEE-nuhss) (graft): in hemodialysis, surgical connection of an artery to a vein using a soft, flexible tube, which can be used for repeated needle sticks. See hemodialysis under dialysis.

Illustration of a looped graft.
Arteriovenous Graft

artery (AR-tur-ee): a large blood vessel that carries blood with oxygen from the heart to all parts of the body.

artificial kidney (AR-tuh-FIH-shuhl)(KID-nee): another name for a dialyzer.

autoimmune disease (AW-toh-ih-MYOON) (dih-ZEEZ): a disorder of the body’s immune system in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys body tissue it believes to be foreign.



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bacteria (bak-TIHR-ee-uh): tiny organisms that cause infection or disease.

biopsy (BY-op-see): a procedure in which a tiny piece of tissue, such as from the kidney or bladder, is removed for examination with a microscope.

bladder (BLAD-ur): the balloon-shaped organ inside the pelvis that holds urine.

blood urea nitrogen (BUN) (bluhd) (yoo-REE-uh) (NY-trohjen): a waste product in the blood that comes from the breakdown of protein. The kidneys filter blood to remove urea. As kidney function decreases, the BUN level increases.

BUN (BEE-YOO-EN): see blood urea nitrogen.



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calcitriol (KAL-sih-TRY-ol): a hormone produced by the kidneys to help the body absorb dietary calcium into the blood and bones.

calcium (KAL-see-uhm): a mineral the body needs for strong bones and teeth. Under certain conditions, calcium may form stones in the kidney.

CAPD (SEE-AY-PEE-DEE): see continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis under dialysis.

catheter (KATH-uh-tur): a tube inserted through the skin into a blood vessel or cavity to draw out body fluid or infuse fluid. In peritoneal dialysis, a catheter is used to infuse dialysis solution into the abdominal cavity and drain it out again. See peritoneal dialysis under dialysis.

Illustration of two peritoneal catheters.
Two double-cuff Tenckhoff chronic peritoneal catheters: standard (top), curled (bottom)

CCPD (SEE-SEE-PEE-DEE): see continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis under dialysis.

chronic (KRON-ik): refers to disorders that last a long time, often years. Chronic kidney disease may develop over many years and lead to end-stage renal disease. Chronic is the opposite of acute, or brief.

chronic kidney disease (CKD) (KRON-ik) (KID-nee) (dih-ZEEZ): any condition that causes reduced kidney function over a period of time. CKD is present when a patient’s glomerular filtration rate remains below 60 milliliters per minute for more than 3 months or when a patient’s urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio is over 30 milligrams (mg) of albumin for each gram (g) of creatinine (30 mg/g). CKD may develop over many years and lead to end-stage renal disease.

chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD) (KRON-ik) (KID-nee) (dih-ZEEZ) (MIN-ur-uhl) (and) (BOHN) (diss-OR-dur): abnormal bone hormone levels caused by the failure of the diseased kidneys to maintain the proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. CKD-MBD results in weak bones, a condition known as renal osteodystrophy. CKD-MBD is a common problem in people with kidney disease and affects almost all patients receiving dialysis.

CKD (SEE-KAY-DEE): see chronic kidney disease.

CKD-MBD (SEE-KAY-DEE-EM-BEE-DEE): see chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder.

continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) (kon-TINyoo-uhss) (AM-byoo-luh-TOR-ee) (PAIR-ih-toh-NEE-uhl) (dy-AL-ih-siss): see peritoneal dialysis under dialysis.

continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD) (kon-TIN-yoouhss) (SY-kling) (PAIR-ih-toh-NEE-uhl) (dy-AL-ih-siss): see peritoneal dialysis under dialysis.

creatinine (kree-AT-ih-neen): a waste product from protein in the diet and from the normal breakdown of muscles of the body. Creatinine is removed from blood by the kidneys; as kidney disease progresses, the level of creatinine in the blood increases.

creatinine clearance (kree-AT-ih-neen) (KLIHR-ants): a test that measures how efficiently the kidneys remove creatinine from the blood. Low creatinine clearance indicates impaired kidney function.

cross-matching: before a transplant, the donor’s blood is tested with the recipient’s blood to see whether they are compatible.



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diabetes (DY-uh-BEE-teez): a condition characterized by high blood glucose, resulting from the body’s inability to use blood glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin, and therefore glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use insulin correctly.

dialysate (dy-AL-ih-SAYT): the part of a mixture that passes through a semipermeable membrane. The wastes from blood that pass into the dialysis solution become dialysate. The term dialysate is sometimes used as a synonym for dialysis solution.

dialysis (dy-AL-ih-siss): the process of filtering wastes from the blood artificially. This job is normally done by the kidneys. If the kidneys fail, the blood must be filtered artificially. The two major forms of dialysis are hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

  • hemodialysis (HEE-moh-dy-AL-ih-siss): the use of a machine to filter wastes from the blood after the kidneys have failed. The blood travels through tubes to a dialyzer, which removes wastes and extra fluid. The filtered blood then flows through another set of tubes back into the body.

    Illustration of a dialyzer.

  • peritoneal dialysis (PAIR-ih-toh-NEE-uhl) (dy-ALih-siss): filtering the blood by using the lining of the abdominal cavity, or belly, as the filter. A cleansing liquid, called dialysis solution, is drained from a bag into the abdomen. Fluid and wastes flow through the lining of the abdominal cavity and remain “trapped” in the dialysis solution. The solution is then drained from the abdomen, removing the extra fluid and wastes from the body. The two main types of peritoneal dialysis are continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis and continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis.
    • - continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) (kon-TIN-yoo-uhss) (AM-byoo-luh-TOR-ee) (PAIRih-toh-NEE-uhl) (dy-AL-ih-siss): a form of peritoneal dialysis that does not need a machine. With CAPD, the blood is always being filtered. The dialysis solution passes from a plastic bag through a catheter and into the abdomen. The dialysis solution stays in the abdomen with the catheter sealed. After several hours, the person using CAPD drains the solution back into a disposable bag. Then the person refills the abdomen with fresh solution through the same catheter to begin the filtering process again.
    • - continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis (CCPD) (konTIN-yoo-uhss) (SY-kling) (PAIR-ih-toh-NEE-uhl) (dyAL-ih-siss): a form of peritoneal dialysis that uses a machine. This machine automatically fills and drains the dialysis solution from the abdomen. A typical CCPD schedule involves three to five exchanges during the night while the person sleeps. During the day, the person using CCPD performs one exchange with a dwell time that lasts the entire day.

dialysis solution (dy-AL-ih-siss) (suh-LOO-shuhn): a cleansing liquid used in the two major forms of dialysishemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis solution contains dextrose, a sugar, and other chemicals similar to those in the body. Dextrose draws wastes and extra fluid from the body into the dialysis solution. The term dialysate is sometimes used as a synonym for dialysis solution.

Illustration of a hollow fiber dialyzer.
Structure of a typical hollow
fiber dialyzer

dialyzer (DY-uh-LY-zur): an attachment to the hemodialysis machine. The dialyzer has two sections separated by a membrane. One section holds dialysis solution. The other holds the patient’s blood. See hemodialysis under dialysis.

diffusion (dih-FYOOzhuhn): the tendency of molecules packed together in a small, dense area to spread out by crossing a semipermeable membrane into a larger area with a lower concentration of molecules. In dialysis, wastes and excess electrolytes diffuse from the blood to the dialysis solution.

donor (DOH-nur): a person who gives blood, tissue, or an organ for transplantation. In kidney transplantation, the donor may be someone who is still alive, often a relative, or someone who has just died. See transplant.

dry weight (dry) (wayt): the ideal weight for a person after a hemodialysis treatment. It is the weight at which a person’s blood pressure is normal and no swelling exists because all excess fluid has been removed. See hemodialysis under dialysis.

dwell time: in peritoneal dialysis, the amount of time dialysis solution remains in the patient’s abdominal cavity between exchanges. See peritoneal dialysis under dialysis.


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Page last updated March 23, 2012


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