Therapeutic Hemapheresis

About Therapeutic Hemapheresis

Therapeutic hemapheresis is performed to remove the portion of blood that may be causing problems in the body. You may be experiencing symptoms because a certain part of your blood is abnormal. Removal of that portion, together with other treatments your doctor has prescribed, generally will improve your condition. The number of procedures needed varies with each individual and is determined by your physician.

Types of Procedures

There are many different procedures that we perform, depending upon the diagnoses. Your doctor will choose the procedure that is right for you.

  • Plasma Exchange: plasma is removed and replaced with albumin or fresh frozen plasma.
  • Red Blood Cell Exchange: red blood cells are removed and replaced with fresh packed red blood cells.
  • Platelet Reduction: some platelets are removed and IV fluids may be given if needed.
  • Therapeutic Phlebotomy: a unit of whole blood is removed (similar to donating blood at the Red Cross)

About Your Visit

If you are receiving outpatient treatment you will register in Outpatient Admitting at a few minutes before your scheduled appointment and receive directions to our area. When you arrive in our unit, our nursing staff will get you ready and make you comfortable prior to starting the collection. One of our doctors will get your medical history and do a physical, answer any questions you may have and then ask you to sign a paper giving us permission to do the procedure. A nurse will draw a blood sample and connect you to the machine used for your procedure.

Getting Started

In order to perform your procedure, we need to be able to draw your blood and return it. This can be done in different ways. One of the most common is to place a needle in one of your arms (usually placed where your arm bends) to draw the blood into the machine and another smaller needle in your other arm to return the blood back to you. You will need to keep your "draw" arm straight during the entire procedure. If this method is not practical, or if you will need several procedures, a catheter may be inserted into a vein. This will allow you to get the number of procedures you need more comfortably.

Your doctor should discuss these options with you before your first treatment.

What You May Feel

Experiences differ, but some common symptoms, known as citrate reactions, are listed below:

  • Numbness or tingling around the mouth/nose, hands/fingers, feet/toes
  • Leg cramps
  • A "vibrating" sensation
  • Nausea
  • Feeling cold

These symptoms may occur because your calcium is low from having the procedure performed. This is easily corrected by drinking milk or by chewing TUMS®, which are rich in calcium or we may give an IV solution of calcium during the procedure.

Other Symptoms

  • Dizziness: You may become dizzy or light-headed, but this is rare.
  • Fatigue: You may feel tired the evening following the procedure.

A nurse will be with you at all times and will watch for any symptoms during the procedure. A physician will be available if needed. You will be asked frequently if you are feeling different in any way. This procedure can last anywhere from one to four hours based on your specific illness and the type of procedure you have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: May I eat and drink before or during the procedure?

A: Yes. We will encourage you to drink fluids (especially liquids high in calcium) before, during, and after the procedure.

Q: Should I take all my regular medicines before my procedure?

A. No. Not until speaking with the Apheresis nurse or doctor. They will review your medicines and decide which ones you can or cannot take.

Q: Will my blood touch the machine?

A: No. Your blood will go into a sterile disposable kit within the machine.

Q: Does someone check to see if the machine is working properly?

A: Yes. Our machines are quality checked and cleaned regularly.

Q: How will I feel after the procedure?

A: Most people feel tired, but can resume normal activities after resting. You should plan on having someone drive you home from your procedure.

Therapeutic Hemapheresis is something that is unfamiliar to many. We realize that you may be anxious the first time you have your procedure. Hopefully, the information we have given you will make you less anxious, and will answer some of the questions you may have.

Please bring a complete list of your medications with you to each of your visits.

For More Information

We want to answer all questions to your satisfaction. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us:

Apheresis Service
University Hospital
101 East Tower, Room 10409
750 East Adams Street
Syracuse, New York 13210

Phone: 315 464-9022
Voice Mail: 315 464-6763
Fax: 315 464-9021

Office Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:00 am - 4:00 pm
Emergency Services please call the hospital operator at 315 464-5540