Preparing for Renal Replacement Therapy

General Advice

The appropriate time to prepare someone for dialysis can be difficult to judge. It is essential that preparation should not be left until too late; it may, however, be inappropriate to burden people with too much information too early – this will vary patient to patient.

  • Advise patients (and appropriate others e.g., spouse) regarding the potential need for RRT
  • Introduce concepts of both haemo- and peritoneal dialysis early in conversation
  • Emphasise the importance of patients’ preference in the decision making
  • Discuss transplantation where appropriate (including pre-emptive transplantation)
  • Remember that no RRT is an appropriate option for some patients, this is called conservative management.

About 6-12 months before the patient is expected to reach end-stage, refer to:

  • Social Work Department: Download a proforma and send with copy of clinic letter (in Edinburgh)
  • Community Dialysis Team (CDT): Download proforma and send with copy clinic letter, including:
    • Relevant PMH
    • Any medical contraindications to PD/HD
    • Very brief social history
    • Urgency of referral
  • Transplant team (unless clearly contraindicated) – see below for additional investigations required.
  • Vascular Access Team

The CDT will arrange visits to see patients who may be considering PD and HD (repeat visits, if necessary), and will arrange invitation to a Patients’ Information Evening.  They will see potential PD and home HD patients within their own home; those who are likely to do hospital HD can be seen at clinic visits. It is important to ensure that you get feedback from each of the above referrals and discuss this with the patient to ensure their understanding of the information shared with them.

Vascular Access

Aterio-venous fistulas should be created at least 6 months before starting haemodialysis to ensure that it is successful and mature prior to cannulation. Some patients may require multiple operations for fistula formation and so referral should be made well in advance where possible.

  • Refer to Vascular Access Coordinator (Ext 21199) and use specific referral performa.
New Start Dialysis “SHAVE-PLUS” Checklist

Click here for a checklist which may help when starting patients on dialysis. Consider also using the checklist whenever a tunnelled dialysis catheter (“Permcath”) is inserted, either into new patients or existing dialysis patients who require alternative vascular access.

Hepatitis B and VZV immunizations

We offer HepB immunisation to all patients preparing for dialysis.  Our protocol is given here: Hepatitis B immunisation.  Vaccinations are now requested through the NHS Lothian HSCP Vaccination Service.  Referrals are made using a PSD form.  If using an electronic signature on the PSD form, then the form must be sent from the prescriber’s own e-mail address.  The appropriate e-mail address is at the bottom of the unscheduled vaccination referral form (an excel file so unable to upload to Edren).  

We offer VZV immunisation to patients who test negative for VZV IgG prior to transplantation.  Relevant PSD form here.


MRSA Screening & Eradication

MRSA Screening and Eradication as per Staph aureus eradication protocol.  

PD catheter insertion

Catheters for peritoneal dialysis should be inserted at least 2 weeks before starting PD. Operation dates are arranged through the transplant surgeons, Mr John Terrace and Mr Andrew Sutherland.

Pre-Dialysis and Pre-Transplant Investigations

You can download this proforma as a PDF file suitable for printing out and inserting into patient notes. The information should also be kept up to date on Vital Data. If you are uncertain where to record particular information, please seek advice from senior medical staff.


Acknowledgements:   Neil Turner was the main author for this page. It was updated by Ashley Simpson in 2019. The “SHAVE-PLUS” checklist was written by Fiona Gifford and Mercedes Bugueno-Guerra in 2021.  The last modified date is shown in the footer.