In peritoneal dialysis, a sterile solution containing glucose is run through a tube into the peritoneal cavity, the abdominal body cavity around the intestine, where the peritoneal membrane acts as a partially permeable membrane. The peritoneal membrane or peritoneum is a layer of tissue containing blood vessels that lines and surrounds the peritoneal, or abdominal, cavity and the internal abdominal organs (stomach, spleen, liver, and intestines).
The dialysate is left there for a period of time to absorb waste products, and then it is drained out through the tube and discarded. This cycle or "exchange" is normally repeated 4-5 times during the day, (sometimes more often overnight with an automated system). Each time the dialysate fills and empties from the abdomen is called one exchange. During the dwell time (means the time of dialysate stay in patient's abdominal cavity) wastes, chemicals and extra fluid move from patient's blood to the dialysate across the peritoneum. A drain process is the process after the dwell time, the dialysate full of waste products and extra fluid is drained out of patient's blood. Ultra filtration occurs via osmosis; the dialysis solution used contains a high concentration of glucose, and the resulting osmotic pressure causes fluid to move from the blood into the dialysate. As a result, more fluid is drained than was instilled. Peritoneal dialysis is less efficient than hemodialysis, but because it is carried out for a longer period of time the net effect in terms of removal of waste products and of salt and water are similar to hemodialysis. Peritoneal dialysis is carried out at home by the patient. Although support is helpful, it is not essential. It does free patients from the routine of having to go to a dialysis clinic on a fixed schedule multiple times per week, and it can be done while travelling with a minimum of specialized equipment.