A mechanical cleansing process for blood

Plasmapheresis is a procedure in which your blood is mechanically taken out of your body (just a little at a time) and separated into red blood cells and plasma.  The plasma is discarded and replaced with fresh with a solution of frozen plasma, albumin and/or plasma substitute.

Sometimes the people call the procedure a plasma exchange, sometimes blood washing".

Plasmaphereisis is used to lower the amount of antibodies circulating in the body.  Antibodies are part of "Plasma" so by discarding a portion of your plasma the amount of antibodies can be lowered, (sometime significantly).

Plasmapheresis is usually used for:

1) To quickly arrest or slow (possibly reverse) the loss of muscle control
2) As maintenance treatment (normal and recurring) if other more tolerated treatments are not sufficient.

The actual act of getting Plasmapheresis has been compared to dialysis.  High bore hypodermics are inserted (usually in the arm but possibly in the groin or neck, if necessary) and the blood is directed through tubing to a centrifuge where it is separated into its parts and the plasma replaced.

The reconstituted blood is then sent back into the body.

For reasons that are obvious this is a lengthy procedure usually requiring the person having it to lay still for a few hours.
For reasons that may be less obvious the procedure can only be done a little at a time.  Plasmapheresis is a "course" of "washings" over a few days.

This is because:

The goal of the procedure is to reduce your antibodies enough to gain relief, but, to leave enough antibodies so that you do not fall victim to germs and viruses.

Although considered a relatively safe procedure, there are some risks:

The procedure will be done in a "Hemo" unit.  Usually  located in a hospital.
If you are having it done for the first time or are very weak or at "risk" the doctors will probably have you take the procedure as "in hospital" patient.

Plasmapheresis is not a cure, but it can temporarily reduce the level of antibodies that attack the neuromuscular junction.

It does not prevent the production of more antibodies. Therefore, sooner or later the antibodies will return. An
immunosuppressive drug may be used to reduce/slow  the production of the antibodies.


The materials and information on this site are intended for educational and informational purposes only. The materials and information are not intended to replace the services of a trained health professional or to be a substitute for medical advice of physicians and/or other health care professionals. You should consult your physician on specific medical questions, particularly in matters requiring diagnosis or medical attention.

All literary works and original artwork by Rion on this page,
unless otherwise noted, are the sole property of Brenda Sewell.
I do not mind sharing but please ask me first.

© 1998 - 2004 Brenda "Rion" Sewell

Email me at brendarion at


Back to LUPUS Main Page