Access: In dialysis, the natural or artificial blood vessel used to get blood in and out of the dialysis filter.

Adverse reaction: An unexpected and undesirable reaction to a drug or treatment that may be serious or life threatening.

Anticoagulation (ant- eye-KO-AG-you-lay-shun): The process of administering a substance, such as heparin, to prevent the blood from clotting.

Artery (AR-ter-ee): Blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.

Arteriovenous (ar-TEER-ee-oh-VEE-nus) fistula (FIST-yoo-lah): Also called an AV fistula. Surgical connection of an artery directly to a vein, usually in the forearm, created in patients who will need hemodialysis.

Arteriogram: An X-ray of the arteries taken with the use of contrast dye; sometimes called angiography.

Artificial kidney: Another name for a dialysis filter or dialyzer.

Aseptic Technique (A-cept-ik Tek-neek): Practices that reduce the risk of infections.


Bacteria: Single cell organisms or “germs” that can cause infection or disease.

Bloodborne Pathogens: Organisms or “germs” that can live in the blood and can be spread to other people.

Blood Flow Rate (BFR): The volume of blood per minute flowing from and returning to the patient through the blood tubing and filter. Blood flow rate is measured in ml/min.

Bloodline: The tubing set that carried the blood from the patient to the HD machine and back to the patient.

Blood pressure: The force of blood exerted on the inside walls of blood vessels, expressed as a ratio (example: 120/80, read as “120 over 80”).

Bolus: Giving a specific amount of IV fluid during dialysis. This is usually used to treat low blood pressure.


Catheter: A soft tube that is inserted into a large vein in the neck, chest, or leg to provide vascular access.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD): Damage of the kidneys from a variety of causes.

Convection: A process in which waste products are carried across a membrane or filter by the movement of fluid. This works kind of like a coffee maker.


Dehydration (dee-hy-DRAY-shun): The loss of too much body fluid through excessive urinating, sweating, diarrhea or vomiting.

Dialysis (dy-AL-ih-sis): The process of removing wastes and excess fluid from the blood artificially.

Dialysate: A special fluid mixture used to clean the blood during dialysis.

Dialyzer (DY-uh-LY-zur): The filter used in a dialysis system to remove wastes and fluid.

Diastolic (DY-uh-STAH-lik) blood pressure: The “bottom” number in a blood pressure reading (120/80), the blood pressure when the heart rests.

Diffusion (De-few-SHUN): Movement of waste products across a membrane or filter from a high concentration (the blood) to a low concentration (dialysate). This works kind of like making tea with a tea bag.

Disinfection (Des-in-Fek-shun): The process of cleaning to prevent the growth of bacteria that could lead to infection.

Dry Weight: The “ideal” weight for a person, at which blood pressure is normal and there is no swelling from extra fluid.

Dwell time: The amount of time dialysis solution remains in the patient’s abdominal cavity during a peritoneal dialysis exchange.


Edema (eh-DEE-muh): Swelling caused by excess fluid and salt in the body.

Effluent: The filtered fluid containing waste products and excess fluid removed from the patient’s blood.

Electrolytes (ee-LEK-troh-lites): Chemicals in body fluids including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride.

End-stage renal (REE-nul) disease (ESRD): Total and permanent kidney failure.

Erythropoietin (eh-RITH-roh-POY-uh-tin): A hormone made by the kidneys that stimulates the body to make red blood cells.


Filter: See dialyzer.

Fistula (FIST-yoo-LAH): A connection created by surgery between an artery and vein to make a bigger blood vessel for dialysis access. The “gold standard” because it is easy to use, has low infection rates, and lasts a long time.

Fluid overload: A condition in which the body contains too much water and salt.


Graft: In hemodialysis, a vascular access surgically created using a synthetic tube to connect an artery to a vein.


Hemodialysis (HEE-moh-dy-AL-ih-sis): The process of using of a machine to remove wastes and fluid from the blood after the kidneys have failed.

Hypertension (HY-per-TEN-shun): High blood pressure.

Hypertensive (HY-per-TEN-siv): Having high blood pressure.

Hypotension (hy-poh-TEN-shun): Low blood pressure.


Kidney: One of two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood located near the middle of the back.

Kidney failure: Loss of kidney function.


Membrane: A thin sheet or layer of tissue that lines a cavity or separates two parts of the body, and that can act as a filter.

Modality (Mo-DAL-uh-tea): A type of treatment.


Nocturnal (Knock-turn-el): Happening at night, in dialysis this is treatment that it done at night while sleeping.


Oxalate: A chemical that combines with calcium in urine to form the most common type of kidney stone (calcium oxalate stone).

Over-The-Counter: Medications which can be sold and obtained legally without a doctor’s prescription.


Phosphate: A substance in many types of foods.

Phosphate binders: Medication that helps prevent a build-up of phosphate in the blood.

Prescription (PRE-skrip-shun): A doctor’s written orders; can be for medicines or treatments like dialysis.


Renal (REE-nul): Having to do with the kidneys.

Rinse back: Using sterile fluid to rinse the bloodline and dialyzer of all the blood after dialysis.


Semipermeable Membrane (Semi-purr-Me-abul Mem-brain): A natural or artificial membrane that aids in the separation of substances and fluids and allows only certain types of substances to move across it.

Stenosis: A narrowing of a blood vessel or other organ.

Systolic (sis-TAH-lik) blood pressure: The first number of a blood pressure (120/80) or the pressure when the heart pushes blood out into the arteries.

Support group: An organized network of people with something in common who give and receive help, advice, friendship and emotional support.


Toxin: Something that is poisonous.


Ultrafiltration (Ull-trah-fill-TRAY-shun): Removes fluid from the blood, if not replaced removes excess patient weight.

Ultrafiltration Rate (Ull-trah-fill-TRAY-shun): The amount of fluid, measured in liters or milliliters per hour, removed from the patient across the filter to reach dry weight goal.

Universal Precautions (You-ne-VERSE-al PRE-kaw-shuns): A way of preventing infection by treating all blood and body fluids as if they contained infection. See aseptic technique.


Vaccine: A serum containing weakened or killed germs that protect against infections.

Vascular (VASS-kyoo-lur) access: A natural or artificial blood vessel used to move blood into and out of a dialysis filter.

Vein (VANE): A blood vessel that carries blood toward the heart.