Robert Richardson, 46, discovered eight years ago that his kidney function had deteriorated to the point where he needed dialysis. It resulted from glomeril nephritis, a chronic condition he's had since age 5.
“The doctors caught something on a physical, and they had me see a nephrologist,” Richardson said. “The nephrologist told me my kidney function was down around 15%.”
By fall of that year, Richardson, newly married and working as a teacher and a tour guide in Savannah, Ga., was performing peritoneal dialysis several times a day at home. The procedure removes toxins from his blood by filling his abdominal cavity with a special solution. After three-and-a-half years using that treatment, Richardson said it left him feeling tired. He switched to home hemodialysis, in which each night he connects to a machine that filters his blood while he sleeps.
Richardson is one of a growing number of U.S. patients having dialysis at home. Research shows that patients on home hemodialysis or home peritoneal dialysis who dialyze five to six times a week have better health outcomes than those who visit an outpatient center three times a week because home-based patients filter their blood more frequently. But experts say Medicare payment policies, cost issues for providers and patients, patient demographics and physician comfort levels have gotten in the way of broader use.