Therapeutic Plasma Exchange
UT Southwestern offers therapeutic plasma exchange for patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond.
Our team is committed to providing high-quality care in a safe and comfortable environment.
Effective Blood Plasma Removal and Treatment
Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE), also known as plasmapheresis, removes and replaces a patient's blood plasma to treat certain diseases.
UT Southwestern is a recognized leader in apheresis, offering both inpatient and outpatient services seven days a week. Our dedicated team of physicians, advanced practice providers, registered nurses, and certified apheresis technicians provides the most advanced care and uphold our institution’s mission of delivering the highest level of quality, safety, and service.
Conditions We Treat with Therapeutic Plasma Exchange
TPE is used in the treatment of various autoimmune diseases, conditions that cause the body to recognize a part of itself as foreign and generate proteins (called autoantibodies) that attack part of the body. These proteins are found in the plasma component of blood.
The goal of TPE is to remove large amounts of disease-causing agents, such as these antibodies, that attack the body and cause symptoms.
Conditions we treat with TPE include:
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: A rare blood disorder that causes the formation of blood clots throughout the body
- Myasthenia gravis: A chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness of the voluntary muscles of the body
- Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (Guillain-Barré syndrome): A rare illness in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves
- Antibody-mediated rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis: A syndrome characterized by progressive loss of kidney function
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy: A disorder in which the body attacks the fatty tissue that protect the nerve cells (myelin sheaths)
- Transplant rejection of solid organs (kidney, heart, lung)
- Hyperviscosity syndrome: A condition that prevents blood from flowing freely through the arteries
- Recurrent focal segmental glomerulosclerosis: A condition that can occur after a kidney transplant and can lead to end-stage renal disease
- Multiple sclerosis: A common disorder of the central nervous system
- Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder: An immunological disorder that can attack the brain and spinal cord
- Cryoglobulinemia: The presence of abnormal proteins in the blood that affects blood flow to organs
- Autoimmune encephalitis: A disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the brain
- Autoimmune neuropathy: A condition in which the body's immune system attacks parts of the nerves
- Stiff-person syndrome: A neurological disorder that causes muscle stiffness
- Other rare diseases
Therapeutic Plasma Exchange: What to Expect
During this therapy, small amounts of blood are gradually removed through an inserted needle or central line catheter and circulated through a machine that separates blood into red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma.
The plasma portion of the blood is removed and replaced by a plasma substitute and then added back to the cells (red cells, white cells, and platelets) and finally returned by intravenous or central venous catheter access. The removed plasma is discarded.
One procedure typically removes 65% to 70% of the disease-causing proteins (antibodies) in the plasma. Typically, several procedures are needed to lead to clinical improvement.
Plasma exchange is a safe procedure with a few possible side effects.
Prior to a procedure, we recommend that patients drink large amounts of noncarbonated, nonalcoholic beverages for a couple of days. We also recommend eating a meal prior to the scheduled procedure.
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 two to three 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.
After the procedure is completed, patients may feel tired for the rest of the day. We recommend drinking plenty of liquids after the procedure. We also recommend that patients have a family member or friend give them a ride home.
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.