What to Expect During Plasmapheresis When You Have LEMS

What to Expect During Plasmapheresis When You Have LEMS

Plasmapheresis is a procedure that can be used to treat Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS), an autoimmune disease in which antibodies are produced that mistakenly attack the body’s own tissues, leading to the symptoms of the disease.

Plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange, involves extracting a patient’s blood, filtering out the plasma components such as autoantibodies, and returning the blood cells to the patient in replacement plasma, which can be fresh or processed donor-derived plasma. Because the procedure reduces the number of circulating antibodies in the blood, it can alleviate the symptoms of LEMS.

How to prepare for plasmapheresis

Talk to your doctor before the procedure for any specific preparation instructions.

Drink plenty of fluids for several days prior to the procedure so you’re well-hydrated. Stop drinking fluids about three hours before the procedure. Use the restroom immediately prior so you don’t have to during the two- to three-hour procedure.

Make sure to eat during the day of the procedure. Some patients feel light-headed during plasmapheresis, which is made worse if blood sugar is low.

What happens during the procedure

The procedure will feel similar to giving blood. The nurse will insert a needle into the large vein at the bend of your elbow. The blood will run through a tube into a plasmapheresis machine, where it will be mixed with an anticoagulant to stop the blood from clotting. The machine will separate the blood cells and plasma (the liquid portion of blood). The blood cells will be mixed with a replacement fluid, and this fluid will be returned to your body through another tube inserted into your other arm.

During the procedure, you can read, sleep, or watch television. You may also be able to have visitors with you, depending on the clinic’s rules.

Tell your nurse immediately if you feel faint, dizzy, or nauseated at any time during the procedure.

What happens after the procedure

Once the procedure is over, the nurse will have you sit and wait for a few minutes to ensure that you are feeling well enough to go home.

Plasmapheresis is safe, but comes with potential side effects. You may feel pain or discomfort at a needle injection site on your arm, as well as occasional fatigue, low blood pressure, or a cold and tingling sensation in your fingers or around your mouth. Notify your nurse if you have any of these symptoms.

If you experience pain or swelling at the needle insertion sites after the procedure, inform your doctor.

 

Last updated: Oct. 6, 2019

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Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.
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Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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