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Photopheresis, also known as extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP), is a medical treatment that removes blood via a machine and isolates white blood cells. Then, these white cells are exposed to a medication called 8-methoxypsoralen followed by UVA irradiation before returning the blood to the patient. These white cells are targeted because they are underlying cause of disease. In the case of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, the white cells are abnormal. In other diseases, the white cells are responsible for an immune response which causes transplant rejection or graft versus host disease. Photopheresis is used to treat the following medical conditions:
- Lung transplant rejection
- Heart transplant rejection
- Chronic graft versus host disease (GVHD)
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL)
What to Expect
Photopheresis is a safe procedure with a few possible side effects. If intravenous catheters are placed, the arms will be propped on pillows and you will be asked to intermittently pump a fist to help promote blood flow. One may experience bruising or discomfort at the insertion sites. If a larger catheter or port is used, one will have free use of their arms during the procedure. You may experience, nausea, numbness/tingling, or light-headedness. An apheresis staff member specialized with the procedure will be with you throughout the treatment and should be notified of any side effects to help alleviate the symptoms. The procedure typically takes 2 hours.
It is important to avoid direct and indirect sunlight and wear dark glasses for 24 hours after each treatment, as your eyes and skin will be temporarily more sensitive to sunlight.