Reply To: Reaching out for my husband, who has been in the hospital for 5 weeks.
A little more about PE – The terms Plasmapheresis, Apheresis, and Plasma Exchange (PE) are often used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. Plasmapheresis removes a smaller amount of plasma, usually less than 15% of the patient’s blood volume and therefore does not require replacement of the removed plasma.
PE is the procedure that is performed most commonly for GBS/CIDP. A large volume of plasma (over 60%) is removed from a patient. The volume removed is such that if it were not replaced, significant hypovolemia resulting in vasomotor collapse would occur. As a result, the removed plasma must be replaced with some form of replacement fluid such as albumin. It takes 3-4 PE’s to get out the majority of the antibodies that are responsible for the GBS/CIDP.
When I first underwent PE, I saw the plasma they had removed (I had to ask to see it as they hide it from you). I was astounded by the size of the plastic bag it was captured in, maybe 3 gallons! It was coarse looking and dark, almost black in color. After a number of treatments, the fluid was yellow and transparent.
It should be noted that PE will cancel out IVIg/SCIg and Rituximab. Ig will cancel the effects of PE and seriously reduce the benefit of Rituxan. So, the order of treatments would be important for the best results.
Some of my first-hand experiences with PE may be of interest to those considering it: