Saturday, March 17, 2012

What is Therapeutic Plasmapheresis (Plasma Exchange)...

Plasmapheresis, also known as Plasma Exchange, is a process that was first used as a medical treatment in 1959. Though, it wasn't until shortly after, in the 1960's, where the process was tweaked and refined as we know of it's process as of today. You will typically find the use of Plasmapheresis in treating autoimmune diseases (Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Transverse Myelitis, Lambert Eaton Syndrome, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, Polymyosits, Dermatomyositis, Muscular Dystrophy, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, HELLP Syndrome, Graves' Disease, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, and about 14 or so other diseases - see the Plasmapheresis Definition Link below for the current list). The process involves removing the "active" circulating antibodies from the bloodstream. This process is achieved by with drawing your blood through a catheter, into the Plasmapheresis Machine (same as a Dialysis Machine, but though a different filtering membrane, where separation, collection, replacement occurs - see picture below) and replacing your plasma with newly collected human or pharmaceutical plasma, back into your bloodstream through another catheter. Each procedure takes about three hours. You will find that it is common practice that this procedure would be repeated every three days over a 2 to 3 week period. Therefore, you would have about 4 to 6 treatments to complete a full therapeutic cycle. Of course, depending on your condition, the doctor may recommend a different therapeutic cycle.

So, why would your doctor recommend Plasmapheresis? What is the objective and the benefits? The objective is to remove the harmful "active" antibodies, known as autoantibodies, that are circulating in your bloodstream and attacking your body. Therefore, Plasmapheresis suppresses the immune system and greatly reduces inflammation. That is the benefit. I know the word inflammation seems like no big deal, BUT IT IS A HUGE DEAL. Inflammation over time, and the severity of it, causes permanent damage to your internal organs. Loss of vision, your hands ability to open and close, lesions to your brain and/or spinal cord causing paralysis, spasticity in your muscles, loss of bowel control, and the list of permanent damage possibilities is endless. Even though Plasmapheresis maybe considered a successful therapy for you, odds are you will remain taking an oral autoimmune suppressant, but at a much lower and safer dosage.

POTENTIAL RISKS. During Plasmapheresis, you may experience a drop in blood pressure, dizziness, or blurred vision. Though, an allergic reaction of itching or a rash is possible from the newly introduced plasma which quickly goes away. It is the blood clotting agent used during the procedure that may cause bleeding. Since this is such a problematic risk, you will be monitored very closely during the entire therapeutic cycle.

Plasmapheresis Definition Link
Plasmapheresis Patient 1 Video
Plasmapheresis Patient 2 Video

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