Hemapheresis – Definition, Procedure, and Complications

Hemapheresis also called apheresis, is a medical procedure that involves to drain blood from a donor or patient and separate the blood into individual components so that one particular component can be removed. The remaining blood component will then be flowed back into the bloodstream from the patient or donor.

Apheresis is used to collect donor blood components, such as platelets or plasma, as well as for the treatment of certain medical conditions in which part of the blood that contains elements of the disease can be removed.

The terminology of hemiparesis or apharesis used may also reflect the components of the blood to be removed, such as:

  • Plasma (plasmapheresis)
  • Platelets (plateletpheresis)
  • Leukocytes (leukapheresis)
  • Red blood cells (erythropheresis)

Total plasma exchange (plasma removal and replacement with fresh frozen plasma) can also be done using the apheresis procedure. It is also used for the collection of stem cells from peripheral blood.

How is apheresis done?

All apheresis procedures involve draining blood from a patient’s or donor’s blood vessels through a tube to the machine that separates blood components. This separation is carried out by one of the centrifuge or filtration processes in the blood in the machine. After separation, the desired component of blood is taken, while the remaining desired blood component is infused back to the patient. The whole procedure is painless and usually takes about two hours, or only a little longer than conventional blood donors.

Are there complications from apheresis?

Serious complications from apheresis are rare. Minor complications of apheresis can include bleeding in the donor area and a feeling of floating that usually subsides quickly.

More serious complications can occur when apheresis is used to treat serious conditions and includes:

  • Bleeding and tendency to bleed, due to blood clotting factors are taken.
  • Infection and infection tendency, because the immune system is somewhat suppressed when antibodies are taken.
  • Low blood pressure, because there is wasted body fluids)
  • Muscle cramps, because low levels of calcium in the blood can occur and other electrolytes can be out of balance).

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