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Blood & Transfusion Medicine

Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE)

Therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) is a treatment that removes plasma from your blood. The removed plasma is then replaced with a substitute. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood. It helps carry blood cells and other substances throughout your body. With certain diseases, plasma can contain an abnormal substance that may trigger symptoms. TPE helps remove this abnormal substance and relieve symptoms. TPE can also help you better fight your disease. TPE is also known as plasmapheresis.

How TPE is done

TPE uses a special machine to separate blood into its different parts. It then removes and replaces most of the plasma. Patients often need more than one treatment. Patient and treating physician and transfusion medicine specialist will discuss the schedule for treatment in advance. Each plasma exchange takes about 2 to 4 hours.

  • An IV needle is inserted into a vein in each arm as an access point. In some cases, a large vein in patient’s shoulder or groin is accessed instead. Tubing connects the access point or points to the exchange machine.
  • Blood flows through tubing to the machine. Before the blood reaches the machine, medicines are added that prevent the blood from forming clots. These medicines are called anticoagulants
  • The machine separates blood into its various parts. It then removes the plasma.
  • The machine adds a plasma substitute to the remaining blood. This may be a replacement fluid that contains saline and albumin. Or it may be plasma from a human donor.
  • The blood containing the new plasma returns to you through the tubing

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