(Plasma Exchange; Therapeutic Plasma Exchange)
DefinitionPlasmapheresis 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.
Reasons for ProcedurePlasmapheresis 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:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurological diseases
- Very high levels of cholesterol that are not reduced by diet and medications
- Toxins that can get into your blood
Possible ComplicationsProblems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like
- Anaphylaxis—a dangerous allergic reaction to the solutions used in plasma replacement, which usually starts with itching, wheezing, or a rash
- Mild allergic reaction to the procedure, such as fever, chills, or rash
- Drop in blood pressure
- Bruising or swelling
What to Expect
Prior to ProcedureLeading up to your procedure:
- Review your regular medications with your doctor. You may be asked to stop taking some drugs.
- Arrange to have someone drive you home from the hospital.
- Drink plenty of noncaffeinated and nonalcoholic beverages.
- Eat a well-balanced meal before going for treatment, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.
- Wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can easily be pulled above the elbows.
- Bring a book or personal music player to help pass the time during the procedure.
- Empty your bladder before the procedure.
AnesthesiaAnesthesia is not needed for this procedure.
Description of the ProcedureYou 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.
|Long-Duration Catheter Placement in Shoulder and Groin|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Immediately After ProcedureYou will be asked to rest for a short period of time.
How Long Will It Take?
- A single plasmapheresis treatment can take 1 to 3 hours.
- The length of treatment will depend on your body size and the amount of plasma that needs to be exchanged.
- You will most likely need to have several treatment sessions per week for two weeks or more.
- Frequency of treatments will depend on your diagnosis.
How Much Will It Hurt?You may experience some discomfort when the needles are inserted. The procedure itself is painless.
Average Hospital Stay
- The procedure is usually done outside of the hospital. In such cases, you will be allowed to leave after a short resting period.
- In some instances, hospitalization is required. Length of stay will depend on your diagnosis.
Post-procedure CareWhen you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- To lessen the chance of excessive bleeding, do not shave or cut your fingernails for at least 4-6 hours after treatment.
- You can usually return to your regular activities the day of your treatment.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your DoctorCall your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Excessive bruising, bleeding, or swelling at the needle insertion sites
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Excessive itching or rash
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Feeling lightheaded, or fainting
- Severe pain
- Cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, or other new symptoms
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.
- Reviewer: Igor Puzanov, MD; Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2013
- Update Date: 05/11/2013