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Plasma exchange, also known as plasmapheresis, is a way to "clean" your blood. It works sort of like kidney dialysis. During the treatment, plasma -- the liquid part of your blood -- gets replaced with plasma from a donor or with a plasma substitute.
People with some forms of multiple sclerosis use plasma exchange to manage sudden, severe attacks, sometimes called relapses or flare-ups. Their plasma could have certain proteins that are attacking their own body. When you take out the plasma, you get rid of those proteins, and symptoms may get better.
How It Works
You can get plasma exchange in the hospital or at an outpatient center. The process isn't painful, and you won't need anesthesia.
You'll lie in bed or sit in a reclining chair.
A nurse or a specialist will put a needle attached to a thin tube, called a catheter, into a vein in each arm. If your arm veins are too small, you may have to have a needle in your shoulder or groin instead.
Your blood comes out through one of the tubes and goes into a machine that separates your plasma from your blood cells. Then your blood cells get mixed with fresh plasma, and the new blood mixture goes back into your body through the other tube.
Most treatments last 2 to 4 hours, depending on how big your body is and how much plasma gets swapped out. You may need two or three treatments each week for 2 or more weeks.