What Is Apheresis?

Also referred to as hemapheresis or pheresis, apheresis is the process of removing a specific portion of the blood while returning the remainder of the blood to the patient. Some examples of apheresis include:

  • Plasmapheresis - removal of plasma
  • Leukapheresis - removal of white blood cells
  • Granulocytapheresis - removal of granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils.)
  • Lymphocytapheresis - removal of lymphocytes
  • Lymphoplasmapheresis - removal of lymphocytes and plasma
  • Plateletpheresis or Thrombocytapheresis - removal of platelets

A person's blood is removed from their arm through tubing which goes into a cell separator. The desired portion is separated and the remainder of the blood flows back into the patient through tubing.

This is a procedure about which each individual patient needs to make a decision. Many would see the process as being similar to dialysis which also involves blood being diverted into an external device and then being returned to the patient.

A further consideration for a Jehovah's Witness is whether the removed portion of the blood is to be replaced with a blood product. For instance, since Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept transfusions of plasma, they would also not accept the removal of their own plasma with an accompanying transfusion of donor plasma.

In making a decision, an individual can ask his/her doctor to explain the procedure, its purpose, its risks and benefits as well as any appropriate alternative therapies.

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