Definition of Hemapheresis

The process of withdrawing blood from the body, filtering it through a machine called a cell separator to extract a desired blood component, and returning the rest of the blood to the person. There are two forms, therapeutic and donor.

Therapeutic hemapheresis, also called apheresis, removes damaged or defective components from the blood, which allows the body to naturally replace the components with healthy structures.

Donor hemapheresis collects blood components for use in blood transfusions.

Therapeutic Hemapheresis

GlomerulonephritisGoodpasture’s syndrome
MalariaMultiple sclerosis
Myasthenia gravisOrgan transplant rejection
Pemphigus vulgarisProtein-bound drug toxicity
Rheumatoid arthritisSickle cell disease
ThrombocytosisThrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
Transfusion reaction

For hemapheresis, the phlebotomist inserts an intravenous needle into a vein in each arm. One needle attaches to tubing that allows blood to flow out of the body and into the cell separator. The other needle attaches to tubing that brings the blood back to the body after the cell separator has extracted the appropriate blood product. The entire process takes about two hours for most blood products.

Some people find insertion of the needles uncomfortable and may also have chills and mild discomforts during the hemapheresis or for a short time afterward. There are relatively few risks with hemapheresis.

Types of Hemapheresis

cytapheresis= removal of cells
leukapheresis= removal of leukocytes (white blood cells)
plasmapheresis= removal of plasma
plateletapheresis= removal of platelets


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