Plasmapheresis, Pediatric

Plasmapheresis is a medical treatment in which plasma (the fluid part of blood) is removed from whole blood. After the plasma has been removed, the remainder of the whole blood can be given back to the patient. This treatment may help children with:

  • Autoimmune conditions. These conditions occur when the body's immune system mistakenly turns against itself and attacks its own tissues. Substances called autoantibodies (antibodies which are produced against the body's own tissues) circulate in the blood and carry out the attack. Autoantibodies are inside plasma.

  • Some neurological conditions.

  • Removing unwanted substances from the blood.


Plasmapheresis in children is usually performed in the hospital. Your child will be admitted to the hospital, and taken to his or her room where the procedure is conducted. The length of time the procedure takes depends on:

  • Your child's body size.

  • How much plasma exchange needs to occur. Your child's caregiver will determine this.

Your child will most likely need to have a central venous catheter placed in a large vein by the doctor. This may require the need for medicine to sedate or provide pain relief during the placement. This catheter is necessary to obtain the blood required.

If the procedure is done on an outpatient basis (your child does not need to stay overnight), your child will have the procedure done (usually between 1 to 3 hours), stay for a short length of time afterward, and then be allowed to go home with you.

The frequency your child will need to have these treatments will depend on his or her illness.


As with all treatments and procedures, there are risks. Your child's caregiver will go through these in more detail with you prior to the procedure. Risks of plasmapheresis include, but are not limited to:

  • Dizziness or feeling faint- usually caused by a decrease in blood pressure.

  • Bleeding which can be caused by some of the medications delivered during plasmapheresis, or during placement of the catheter.

  • Allergic reaction.


After your child has had plasmapheresis, call your child's caregiver if any of the following problems occur:

  • Fever or chills develop.

  • Bruising or bleeding at the catheter placement site develops.

  • Nausea and vomiting develops.

  • Itching or rash develops.

  • Abdominal pain develops.

  • Any new symptoms develop.


  • Your child develops seizures.

  • Your child develops a cough, wheezing, shortness of breath.

  • Your child develops chest pain.

  • Your child develops an irregular heartbeat or palpitations.

  • Your child develops yellowish color to the skin or eyes.