Types of Apheresis

Apheresis involves removing blood impurities by removing the blood from the body, separating and discarding harmful substances from the blood and returning the good blood to the body. Unlike dialysis, which employs a similar method, apheresis takes longer because the extraction process takes place through the veins instead of a central line through the body. There are six types of apheresis used depending on the type of treatment needed. The duration of the procedure varies based on the amount of blood extracted. For example, a 4-liter extraction takes about two-and-a-half hours.

Total Plasma Exchange

With total plasma exchange, the apheresis machine extracts blood from the patient, removes the harmful plasma, replaces harmful plasma with healthy donor plasma or a protein ingredient in plasma and restores the blood to the body. Hospitals and medical centers use this method to treat disorders such as leukemia, lupus, scleroderma and Guillain-Barre syndrome.


During the photopheresis procedure, the apheresis removes some white blood cells and adds a photoactive substance called methoxsalen. The apheresis machine returns the blood to the patient without the extracted white blood cells. A doctor, nurse or hemapheresis practitioner treats the white blood cells with ultraviolet light and returns the white blood cells to the patient. This method modifies immune system response and controls cells that play a role in organ rejection.

Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection

Peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC) helps immature stem cells form into mature cells used to fight diseases and infections. With this type, the apheresis machine extracts stem cells from the patient or donor and returns the blood to the patient. The stem cells are then frozen and used in the patient’s blood and marrow transplant.


Normal red blood cells look like doughnuts without the holes, live for around 120 days and die. Red blood cells in sickle cell anemia patients live for 10 to 20 days and die. They take on a sickle shape, making it difficult for the cells to pass through the blood vessels. Sickle-shaped blood vessels lead to pain and infections and can damage the patient’s organs. Erythrocytapheresis replaces the damaged red blood cells with healthy red blood cells and returns the blood to the patient.


Leukapheresis extracts white blood cells from the patient’s blood and returns the rest of the blood to the patient’s body. This procedure reduces excess white blood cells that stop blood flow. This procedure treats diseases such as lung, breast, ovarian, cervical and renal cancer. Patients diagnosed with leukemia and lupus also benefit from this procedure.

Apheresis involves removing blood impurities by removing the blood from the body