Therapeutic Apheresis

LDL Apheresis

Appointment New Patient Appointment at 214-633-3190

Apheresis experts at UT Southwestern offer LDL apheresis, which removes substances that transport “bad” cholesterol in the blood, for patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond.

Safe, Effective Care for Decreasing "Bad" Cholesterol and FSGS

LDL apheresis is a nonsurgical therapy that separates and removes low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs), lipoprotein(a) (Lp[a]), and triglycerides (TGs) from the blood. These substances transport cholesterol in the plasma portion of the blood and can cause atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening the arteries) and heart disease.

LDL apheresis is one type of apheresis, a procedure in which a component of blood is removed, collected, or replaced.

UT Southwestern is a recognized leader in apheresis care, providing inpatient and outpatient services seven days a week. Our team of physicians, advanced practice providers, registered nurses, and certified apheresis technicians has been specifically trained to deliver the highest level of quality, safety, and service to patients who need LDL apheresis.

Conditions We Treat with LDL Apheresis

LDL apheresis is most commonly used to remove LDLs in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, an inherited genetic condition that causes the accumulation of cholesterol in the blood. This buildup can lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease.

This therapy is recommended for patients who do not respond to dietary and/or medications used to decrease LDL cholesterol.

LDL apheresis can also be used to treat people with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a condition that causes scar tissue to develop in the filtering unit of the kidney​.

The therapy can help patients who have this condition when it recurs after a kidney transplant or when it occurs in the native kidney. It is used when standard therapies are not tolerated or are ineffective.

LDL Apheresis: What to Expect

During the therapy, small amounts of blood are gradually removed through an inserted needle, central line catheter, or arteriovenous (AV) fistula and circulated through a machine.

The machine first separates the whole blood and plasma, and then the Liposorber filter removes the LDLs, VLDLs, Lp(a), and TGs from the plasma. The blood and plasma are then returned to the patient by the IV access.

One procedure lowers LDL cholesterol by 65% to 70%. Repeated procedures, generally every one to two weeks, are needed to maintain low cholesterol levels for patients with familial hypercholesterolemia.

LDL apheresis is a safe procedure with a few possible side effects.

Before LDL Apheresis

Two days prior to the procedure, we recommend patients drink plenty of noncarbonated and nonalcoholic beverages. We also recommend eating before the scheduled procedure.

If a patient is taking an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, he or she should notify our staff.

During LDL Apheresis

If intravenous catheters (IVs) are placed, patients’ arms will be propped on pillows, and they will be asked to squeeze their fist to help promote blood flow. Patients may experience bruising or discomfort where the IVs are placed. If a larger catheter or port is used instead, patients will have free use of their arms during the procedure.

The procedure typically lasts four to six hours but can be shorter or longer depending on a variety of factors.

After starting the procedure, patients may experience some mild numbness, tingling, light-headedness, or nausea. An apheresis staff member who specializes in the procedure will be with the patient during the entire treatment. Patients should tell their nurse of any side effects or symptoms they feel.

How to Refer a Patient for Apheresis

Our outpatient program offers an easy referral process for patients across Texas and neighboring states. Our team will assist with insurance authorization and coordination of care.

As part of the care, we routinely perform a peripheral vein evaluation to avoid the need for central venous access. In addition, our apheresis physicians are readily available to consult and collaborate with the referring physician to develop a treatment plan.

Please contact our Apheresis Clinic at 214-633-3190, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.