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What is Peritoneal Dialysis and Why Does it Cause Drain Pain?

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

If you didn't know how cramps felt before, you may now know.

Overview of Peritoneal Dialysis

There are several types of dialysis treatments to choose from when living with kidney failure. Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is one of the most popular treatments due to its flexibiilty. PD uses the inside lining of your abdomen to filter and remove waste products such as toxins and excess fluid through a catheter. It also corrects electrolyte problems when your kidneys can't adequately do the job any longer.

Details of How the Treatment Works

During peritoneal dialysis (PD), dialysis solution is infused via your PD catheter into the peritoneal cavity in your belly. The solution typically dwells for about an hour or two before it’s then drained back out of your body into an empty bag or straight into the toilet. The drained solution is called dialysate. Many think of this as urine.

Duration of Peritoneal Dialysis Peritoneal dialysis treatments are typically performed at night while you are sleeping because of the length of the treatment and frequency. Treatments are usually performed daily for 8+ hours a night. These daily treatments will continue until a kidney transplant is received.

Drain Pain The machine that is used to perform peritoneal dialysis is called a cycler. Cyclers use hydraulic suction to drain dialysate. Each fill and drain takes anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. But what no one tells you is that the 30-40 minute hydraulic suction used to drain dialysate can cause incredible pain and discomfort comparable to menstrual cramps. Drain pain can be difficult to sleep through nightly. Depending on your treatment plan, you may have three to five cycles during your sleep. We know people who have five. That means five cycles of 30-40 minute drain pain during sleep. If you find it difficult to sleep during peritoneal dialysis, sleeping aids may be needed.


This page contains general information about peritoneal dialysis. Medical knowledge and practice can change rapidly. Therefore, this page should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.


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