About Therapeutic Apheresis
Therapeutic apheresis is performed to remove the portion of blood that may be causing problems in the body. You may be experiencing symptoms because a certain part of your blood is abnormal. Removal of that portion, together with other treatments your doctor has prescribed, generally will improve your condition. The number of procedures needed varies with each individual and is determined by your physician.
Types of Procedures
There are many different procedures that we perform, depending upon the diagnoses. Your doctor will choose the procedure that is right for you.
- Plasma Exchange: plasma is removed and replaced with albumin or fresh frozen plasma.
- Red Blood Cell Exchange: red blood cells are removed and replaced with fresh packed red blood cells.
- Platelet Reduction: some platelets are removed and IV fluids may be given if needed.
- Therapeutic Phlebotomy: a unit of whole blood is removed (similar to donating blood at the Red Cross)
About Your Visit
If you are receiving outpatient treatment you will register in Outpatient Admitting a few minutes before your scheduled appointment and receive directions to our area. When you arrive in our unit, our nursing staff will get you ready and make you comfortable prior to starting the procedure. If you are inpatient, we will either come to your bedside to perform the procedure in your room, or if you are able and we have space, you will come to our area to have the procedure performed. One of our doctors will get your medical history and do a physical, answer any questions you may have and then ask you to sign a paper giving us permission to do the procedure. A nurse may draw a blood sample and connect you to the machine used for your procedure.
In order to perform your procedure, we need to be able to draw your blood and return it. This can be done in different ways. One of the most common is to place a needle in one of your arms (usually placed where your arm bends) to draw the blood into the machine and another smaller needle in your other arms to return the blood back to you. You will need to keep your "draw" arm straight during the entire procedure. If this method is not possible, or if you will need several procedures, a specialized catheter may be inserted into a vein by a surgeon. This will allow you to get the number of procedures you need more comfortably.
Your doctor will discuss these options with you before your first treatment.
What You May Feel
Experiences differ, but some common symptoms, known as citrate reactions, are listed below:
- Numbness or tingling around the mouth/nose, hands/fingers, feet/toes
- Leg cramps
- A "vibrating" sensation
- Feeling cold
These symptoms may occur because your calcium is low from having the procedure performed. This is easily corrected by drinking milk or by chewing TUMS®, which are rich in calcium or we may give an IV solution of calcium during the procedure.
- Dizziness: You may become dizzy or light-headed, but this is rare.
- Fatigue: You may feel tired the evening following the procedure.
A nurse will be with you at all times and will watch for any symptoms during the procedure. A physician will be available if needed. You will be asked frequently if you are feeling different in any way. This procedure can last anywhere from one to four hours based on your specific illness and the type of procedure you have.
Frequently Asked Questions
May I eat and drink before or during the procedure?
Yes. We will encourage you to eat and drink fluids, especially liquids high in calcium, before, during, and after the procedure.
Should I take all my regular medicines before my procedure?
No. Not until speaking with the Apheresis nurse or doctor. They will review your medicines and decide which ones you can or cannot take.
Will my blood touch the machine?
No. Your blood will go into a sterile disposable kit within the machine.
Does this mean I am getting dialysis?
No. Apheresis separated out and removes a portion of the blood that is causing problems in the body. Dialysis cleans your blod when your kidneys are not functioning properly.
Does someone check to see if the machine is working properly?
Yes. Our machines are quality checked and cleaned regularly.
How will I feel after the procedure?
You may feel tired following the procedure.