Plasmapheresis is done to exchange plasma in the blood. Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that does not contain cells. Once the plasma is removed, fresh plasma or a plasma substitute is added back to the blood.
Plasmapheresis removes autoantibodies from the blood. Autoantibodies are proteins found in plasma. They mistakenly attack your body’s own tissues. In some cases, this procedure is used to remove toxins or metabolic substances from the blood.
Plasmapheresis is used to treat the following:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like
Plasmapheresis may not be appropriate for people with certain clotting disorders.
Leading up to your procedure:
The day of your treatment:
You will be asked to lie in a bed or sit in a reclining chair. Two needles attached to a catheter tube will be inserted into veins. In some cases, a needle will be inserted into each arm. For others, one needle may be inserted into your arm and the other into the opposite foot. If the veins in your limbs are too small to use, a long-duration catheter will be inserted. It will be placed in a vein in your shoulder or groin area.
Blood will be taken out of your body through one of the catheter tubes. It will then go into the apheresis machine. Once in the machine, the blood cells will be separated from the plasma. The machine works in one of two ways. In the first method, the blood cells may be separated from the plasma by spinning the blood at high speeds. The second method uses a special membrane. The membrane has tiny pores that only the plasma can pass through, leaving the blood cells behind. The blood cells will be mixed with replacement plasma or a plasma substitute. The new mixed blood will then be returned to your body through the other tube.
You may experience some discomfort when the needles are inserted. The procedure itself is painless.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Improvement can occur within days or weeks, depending on the condition being treated. Benefits usually last for up to several months, but may last longer. Over time, autoantibodies may again be produced by your body. Because of this, plasmapheresis is mainly used as a temporary treatment.
Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Muscular Dystrophy Association
Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America
Canadian Hemophelia Society
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Facts about plasmapheresis. Muscular Dystrophy Association website. Available at: http://static.mda.org/publications/PDFs/FA-Plasmapheresis.pdf. Updated July 2005. Accessed May 24, 2013.
Muscular dystrophy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Accessed May 24, 2013.
Myasthenia gravis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed May 24, 2013.
Plasmapheresis. Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc. website. Available at: http://www.myasthenia.org/LivingwithMG/InformationalMaterials.aspx. Accessed May 24, 2013
Plasmapheresis. Myasthenia Gravis Association of Western Pennsylvania website. Available at: http://www.mgawpa.org/pdfs/PlasmapheresisLH.pdf. Accessed May 24, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.