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Therapeutic apheresis (plasma exchange or cytapheresis): Indications and technology

Joy L Fridey, MD
Andre A Kaplan, MD
Section Editor
Arthur J Silvergleid, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


Therapeutic apheresis is an extracorporeal treatment that removes blood components from patients; it is used for the treatment of conditions in which a pathogenic substance or component in the blood is causing morbidity.

This topic review will present an overview of the types of indications for which therapeutic apheresis is effective and practical issues in the apheresis technology. Complications of therapeutic apheresis are discussed separately. (See "Therapeutic apheresis (plasma exchange or cytapheresis): Complications".)

Many of the specific indications for therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) are presented in separate topic reviews on the specific clinical conditions for which TPE is indicated.


The following terminology is used to describe procedures related to therapeutic apheresis:

Apheresis – An umbrella term for "taking away" a blood component. Apheresis includes plasmapheresis (taking away plasma) and cytapheresis (taking away blood cells). We do not use the term "pheresis," which is a shortened pronunciation (slang) for apheresis.


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Literature review current through: Oct 2015. | This topic last updated: Jul 29, 2015.
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