Plasmapheresis

What is Plasmapheresis?
Plasmapheresis is a process that filters the blood and removes harmful antibodies. It is a procedure similar to dialysis; however, it removes the plasma portion of the blood where antibodies are located.

Why might I need plasmapheresis before transplant?
Until now, a transplant patient could only receive an organ from someone with a compatible blood type. An organ from an incompatible blood type would be perceived as foreign and vulnerable to attack by the recipient's natural antibodies.

New protocols consisting of medications, spleen removal, and plasmapheresis are allowing transplant candidates to receive kidneys from live donors with blood types that have traditionally been deemed incompatible. Undergoing plasmapheresis before transplant removes antibodies from the blood so they don't attack and damage the new kidney.

Now, through a process of immune conditioning, a recipient is able to receive a kidney from a donor of a different blood type. This new procedure is currently being provided at a limited number of transplant centers.

What else is involved in immune conditioning?
The protocol involves testing the proposed recipient to assess the risk of rejection from harmful antibodies. Next the recipient undergoes plasmapheresis, a process involving the removal of the plasma portion of the blood that contains harmful antibodies and the administration of a medication to prevent their production. The patient is then ready to undergo transplant surgery where, in addition to receiving a donor organ, the patient's spleen is removed using minimally invasive surgical techniques. In some cases, spleen removal can be avoided through the use of a new drug that creates similar effects.

Post-transplant, the patient undergoes additional plasmapheresis treatments before being discharged from the hospital. He or she will then take the same immunosuppression medications as patients receiving a compatible kidney.

Are there other reasons my healthcare provider might recommend plasmapheresis?
Patients with certain causes of kidney disease such as IgA Nephropathy may undergo plasmaphersis to remove harmful antibodies from their blood.

Where can I get more information?
For more information about plasmapheresis, talk to your transplant hospital and ask if this is an option for you.

For more information on incompatible blood types click here.

If you would like more information, please contact us.

©2014 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.