Medical Specialties

FAQs About Kidneys, Diseases and Treatment


Understanding Kidneys and Kidney Transplants at Phoenix Children's Hospital

What do the kidneys do?


  • Filter waste products
  • Balance body fluids
  • Control blood pressure
  • Stimulate red blood cells (to prevent anemia)
  • Control the salts, minerals, and acid in your blood stream

Where are the kidneys?

There are two kidneys, each about the size of a fist, located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the rib cage.

What are some of the causes of kidney disease in children?

There are many causes of chronic kidney disease.

  • Some children are born with an abnormality that can affect their kidneys.
  • Some kidney conditions run in families.
  • Kidney disease can also present itself due to severe infections, chronic illnesses, or reactions to certain medications.

What is kidney failure?

When kidneys are not working well, waste builds up in the blood and body salts and fluids go out of balance. The person may feel tired, weak and may not want to eat.

When kidney function gets to less than 15% of normal, that function may to be replaced with dialysis or transplantation. If the doctor believes this is permanent, and kidney failure is not treated, it can cause death.

Permanent kidney failure is also called End Stage Renal Disease or ESRD.

What are the options for kidney failure?

People with permanent kidney failure have two choices to improve their health and feel better:

  • Dialysis
  • Kidney transplant

What is dialysis?

Dialysis keeps your body in balance and is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys. It is needed when your own kidneys can no longer take care of your body's needs.


  • Removes waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body
  • Keeps a safe level of certain chemicals in your blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate
  • Helps to control blood pressure

What is a kidney transplant?

A kidney transplant is an operation in which a person whose kidneys have failed receives a healthy kidney donated from someone who is alive (living donor) or deceased (deceased donor).

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