Plasmapheresis is a procedure in which blood is separated into cells and plasma. The process is often called plasma exchange. The exchange technique separates and removes from the blood stream the plasma (which contains antibodies) and replaces it with normal plasma protein. In some illnesses the body produces antibodies which attack the body itself; these are known as auto-immune diseases. Research tells us that Myasthenia Gravis is an auto-immune disease. During plasma exchange the amount of antibodies in the blood is reduced.
Plasmapheresis may have been recommended for several reasons:
Plasmapheresis is a relatively safe procedure and constant monitoring during treatment allows the measurable benefits to out-weigh the risks. However, you may experience and will be instructed to report any signs of numbness, tingling associated with the mouth, eyes, fingers or toes and leg cramps, dizziness and mental confusion which may indicate a low blood calcium or potassium level. You may feel very tired, especially in the second or third day of a course of treatment.
A tube called a cannula is inserted into the large vein in the groin under a local anaesthetic. It is stitched into place and remains there until the course of the exchange is complete. The procedure is uncomfortable but not painful.
The amount of plasma that is exchanged is calculated according to your body weight, so could take 2 - 5 hours. The length of a treatment session will vary according to the individual need and will be discussed by your physician. However, it usually takes place every day for 5 days - Monday to Friday. During the exchange you will lie in bed, but for the rest of the day, you will be able to walk around.
The Association does its best to ensure that the information contained in this leaflet is complete and up to date at the time of publication, but cannot accept any legal liability whether for any inaccuracy or otherwise.
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