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Almost 4 million people are treated because of suffering from chronic kidney failure around the world. The kidneys of these patients are unable to filter metabolic toxins and excess water from the blood for excretion through the urine. About 3.5 million patients rely on regular, life-saving dialysis treatment – either at a dialysis clinic or at home – to prevent the damage of further organs these toxins can cause when they accumulate in the blood.
When the kidneys fail, the whole body suffers. As the organs’ ability to filter the blood begins to fail, an excessive amount of protein is often excreted through the urine. The body then lacks this protein. In addition, edemas (retained water) can form in the legs or lungs. In many cases, an insufficient amount of toxins is also removed. These then collect in the blood and can damage other organs. Problems in the digestive tract can appear and even lead to bleeding ulcers. The toxins can even disturb the rhythm of the heart or lead to infection in the pericardium (heart sac). Nervous system disorders have also been observed.
According to estimates, the number of people worldwide suffering from chronic kidney failure and requiring dialysis treatment is rising at a rate of around six percent each year. This is primarily due to a longer life span, which increases the chance of kidney disease. In addition, the treatment of kidney patients in many developing countries is improving. The constantly increasing rates of high blood pressure and diabetes – the main causes of chronic kidney failure – also play a role.
The basic differences between the two types of dialysis treatment are as follows:
- Hemodialysis accounts for about 89 percent of all dialysis therapies. In hemodialysis, blood is filtered outside the patient’s body using an artificial kidney (dialyzer). The patient’s circulation is monitored and controlled by a dialysis machine.
- In peritoneal dialysis, the lining of the abdominal wall, known as the peritoneum, is used as a natural filter for dialysis. This type of dialysis is typically performed by the patients at home and was used by about 390,000 patients at the end of 2019.
A kidney transplant is the third treatment option for patients with chronic kidney failure. However, there is a very limited supply of donor organs. More than 815,000 renal patients around the world live with a donor kidney.
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The wide majority of hemodialysis patients undergo out-patient treatment at one of about 45,600 dialysis centers around the world. The blood-filtering therapy is usually administered three times a week and lasts three to five hours per treatment. When patients are not receiving treatment, they lead largely normal lives.
Home dialysis (Peritoneal dialysis or home hemodialysis) is an alternative to treatment at a dialysis clinic. Working patients especially benefit from home dialysis since it offers more flexibility.