Dialysis: The process of cleansing the blood by passing it through a special machine. Dialysis is necessary when the kidneys are not able to filter the blood. Dialysis allows patients with kidney failure a chance to live productive lives. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Each type of dialysis has advantages and disadvantages. Patients can often choose the type of long term dialysis that best matches their needs.