In this Article

What are the Risks and/or Side Effects?

Plasmapheresis comes with some risks, but the procedure is typically very safe because the risks can be controlled. Some risks and side effects include:

  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Blurring of vision
  • Sweating
  • Cramps in the stomach or abdomen
  • Bleeding caused by anti-coagulants (medicines that stop blood from clotting) used during the procedure
  • Allergic reactions to the gloves, syringes, or medicines used in the procedure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Briefly weakened immune system

Your child will be carefully monitored for any signs of the more serious side effects during the procedure.

What are the Benefits?

Plasmapheresis can help treat the symptoms of various autoimmune conditions. It may also be used to treat conditions including:

  • Multiple sclerosis [skluhr-OH-sis] (MS). MS is a disease of the nervous system that hurts the protective cover around nerve cells. This causes problems with transmitting signals between the brain to the rest of the body that control muscle movements.
  • Dermatomyositis [DURM-uh-toh-MY-oh-SY-tis]. This is a condition that weakens the muscles in the shoulder, neck, and hips.

How do I Prepare?

The best way to prepare for plasmapheresis is to learn as much as you can about the procedure. Depending on how old your child is, you can explain to them what will happen during the procedure and why they need it. Your child will be less nervous if they know what to expect, and if you stay with them during the procedure.

Make sure you follow any instructions your doctor gives you about medicines that need to be taken or foods that need to be avoided on the days before as well as the day of the procedure.

How is it Done or Administered?

Plasmapheresis is done in 6 steps:

  • Two small tubes, called catheters [KATH-ih-turs], are put into veins in 2 parts of your child’s body.
  • A machine uses the first tube to take blood out of your child’s body.
  • Another machine separates the blood and plasma.
  • Depending on the reason for the plasmapheresis, the machine might add fluids or other medicines to the plasma.
  • The blood and plasma are mixed back together.
  • The treated blood is put back into your child’s body through the second tube.

The whole process takes several hours. It doesn’t usually cause pain, but it may not be comfortable for your child, and they might need to sit still for a few hours. The amount of treatment required is different for every child and for different conditions. Although your child might only need 1 session of plasmapheresis, they might need to come in every week, or they could have to come in more than once a week.

When Will I Know the Results?

In some cases, your child may show improvement within a few days of having a plasma exchange therapy procedure. If their autoimmune disease has done more damage, it may take a few weeks to show improvement. There are some cases where plasmapheresis won’t help your child’s condition.

What are Follow-up Requirements and Options?

Sometimes your child may need more than 1 plasmapheresis procedure. Follow-up visits may also be needed to run blood tests and see if the procedure is working as intended.
In plasmapheresis [plaz-muh-fuh-REE-sis], also known as plasma exchange therapy, plasma is removed from the blood and then put back into your child after it undergoes treatment outside the body to remove the parts that are causing an autoimmune [aw-toh-i-MYOON] disease — a disorder where a person’s immune system either attacks healthy cells or fails to protect you from infection. The amount of plasmapheresis that your child needs depends on their condition. Learn more about plasmapheresis.

What is Plasmaphersis?

Plasma is the fluid in your blood that holds your red and white blood cells. Some illnesses can cause problems with your child’s blood plasma. In plasmapheresis [plaz-muh-fuh-REE-sis], also known as plasma exchange therapy, plasma is removed from your child’s blood and then put back after it undergoes treatment outside the body to remove the parts that are causing an autoimmune [aw-toh-i-MYOON] disease. Sometimes, one treatment is enough, but for other conditions your child might need to have multiple treatments Some children might need it regularly for the rest of their life.

Plasmapheresis may be done on either as a patient admitted to the hospital or on an outpatient basis. For inpatient plasmapheresis, your child is admitted to the hospital and stays there before and after the procedure so that doctors and nurses can monitor them. In outpatient plasmapheresis, your child goes to the doctor’s office or hospital for the procedure and goes home as soon as it’s done.

Plasmapheresis usually takes a few hours to complete. While it might make your child a little bit uncomfortable, it doesn’t usually cause much pain.

  • Plasmapheresis is often used to treat autoimmune conditions, such as:Lambert-Eaton syndrome. This syndrome causes nerve damage that can lead to weak muscles, some forms of cancer, or a loss of pigment in the skin.
  • Guillain-Barré [gee-YAYHN-buh-RAY] syndrome. This syndrome also causes nerve damage and can lead to paralysis. Most children recover from this condition, but it can take a long time, and the syndrome might get worse for several weeks before it gets better.
  • Myasthenia [mahy-uhs-THEE-nee-uh] gravis [GRAV-is]. This condition can make it hard for your child to move their eyes, facial muscles, or the muscles in their mouth and throat that help them swallow.