Apheresis is a Greek word meaning "withdrawal" or "removal." It stems from early medicine when "blood letting" was sometimes a successful medical treatment. Advances in the treatment of leukemia with aggressive chemotherapy led to the need for specific blood components, which led to the development of early cell separation devices in the 60's.
How It Works
The blood, from a donor or a patient, passes through a machine that separates specific components and then returns the blood back to the body. A prescribed replacement fluid is added to the blood to help balance what is being removed. Depending on the component being removed, different types of apheresis are used.
Types of Apheresis
- Therapeutic "Apheresis" - Either an excess of normal blood components or a disease-causing substance is removed. The specific component is collected and the blood is returned with a balancing fluid.
- Leukapheresis - Patients, typically those with leukemia, have an extreme level of platelets. This procedure removes white blood cells in order to decrease the overall number or prepare for a transfusion.
- Plasmapheresis - Blood is removed from the body, where plasma is separated by a machine, and the blood is returned to circulation. The plasma is either used to manufacture medications or remove the toxic substance. This is often the most common form of Apheresis.