Kidney failure is devastating because the kidneys cease to cleanse the body of poisons that come from the digestion of food and the normal breakdown of proteins in the body. Without treatment a person with kidney failure will live for about three weeks before dying of uremia (named for a poison that builds up in the blood). Dialysis involves taking blood from the patient with kidney failure and removing the poisons by passing the blood over a membrane which has fluid on its other side. The fluid contains water, salts, sugars, and other small molecules found in normal blood. The dialysis process was designed to be used with an artificial kidney. The patient went to the hospital twice a week for four to six hours at a time. The equipment was expensive, and the medical personnel who ran it required special training. By 1964 there were one hundred patients in the United States routinely being dialyzed twice a week at a...
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