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The antibodies in a person’s blood help protect our bodies from foreign objects. Typically, your antibodies protect you from viruses and bacteria. However, in the case of an organ transplant, your antibodies may mistake your new organ as an invading object and try to defend your body from this intruder.
Plasmapheresis is similar to dialysis; however, it removes the plasma portion of the blood where the antibodies are located. Plasma is the almost clear part of the blood which carries red cells, white cells, platelets and other substances through your bloodstream. During plasmapheresis, you will need to have a working native fistula, graft or dialysis catheter. If you have a catheter, one line of the catheter is attached to tubing and takes blood to the plasmapheresis machine. A second line of the catheter is used to return the blood. If you have a fistula or graft, needles will be placed as they are for dialysis. You may feel some minor discomfort when the needles are placed in position. This is similar to what a blood donor experiences.
Transplant patients may need to have multiple plasmapheresis sessions before and after surgery to remove antibodies. In addition, the patient’s spleen, which produces antibodies, may be removed.
Patients will also require immunosuppressive medication. This will be required before transplantation and may be needed following surgery.
Dr. Robert Montgomery published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine regarding patients who are difficult to match and the successful treatment options at Johns Hopkins. Watch the video below.