Plasmapheresis is a process where the liquid part of the blood, or plasma, is separated from the blood cells. Usually, the plasma is replaced with another solution such as saline or albumin, or the plasma is treated and then returned to your body.
Some people refer to this procedure as apheresis but these are two slightly different procedures. Apheresis is the procedure where a patient’s blood is filtered and a particular component of that blood is removed and the rest is returned to circulation. But plasmapheresis is the procedure where the plasma is filtered out and then replaced with a fresh plasma infusion.
If you have Lyme disease, the plasma in your blood can sometimes be full of inflammatory compounds from the Borrelia and other co-infections. These inflammatory compounds, possibly combined with other environmental toxins, can make it difficult for your immune system to keep the Lyme infection under control. So the process of plasmapheresis can help to literally ‘cleanse’ your blood and give your body’s immune system a boost.
Bloodletting or ‘blood cleansing’ has been around for a long time
The idea of plasmapheresis or ‘blood cleansing’ has been with us virtually since the beginning of time. Bloodletting, the practice of draining blood from sick patients, has been around since the Egyptians, dating back one thousand years BC. The practice of bloodletting peaked in the 18th century and has evolved with modern technology to this day.
What actually happens in Plasmapheresis?
Blood has four major components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. With modern machinery, blood can be separated into each of these four components. Thus, if a particular blood component is causing harm, it can be selectively removed and replaced with the same blood component from healthy donors.
During the process, blood is removed and separated into plasma (liquid component) and cells (solid component). The plasma is then filtered, allowing for the removal of oxidized LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, lipoprotein (LP)(a), fibrinogen, C-reactive protein (CRP), galectin-3 (Gal-3), and other inflammatory compounds.
The two blood components are then recombined and returned to the patient in a continuous process. This state-of-the-art therapy results in an immediate and dramatic reduction in viscosity (thickness) of the blood, as well as a clearing of multiple inflammatory compounds which are often generated by a Lyme infection and toxic burden.
Plasmapheresis opens the pathway for the tissues to receive nutrients and anti-microbial therapies can now effectively reach their targets, offering an immediate reduction in the toxic load.
What can you expect?
During plasmapheresis, the patient rests on a bed and a needle or catheter is placed into a vein in the crux of whichever arm has the most robust artery. In some cases, a catheter is placed in the groin or shoulder.
Replacement or returned plasma flows into your body through a second tube which is placed in the arm or foot.
If you’re receiving plasmapheresis as treatment, the procedure can last between one and three hours. You may need more than one treatment and this will depend on the severity of your illness.
Plasmapheresis usually provides more short-term relief and often the process will need to be repeated. The frequency and length of results are highly dependent on your condition and its severity. Your doctor should be able to give you a general idea of how long plasmapheresis will be effective for and how frequently you need to use it.
Are there any side effects?
Plasmapheresis does carry a risk of side effects. Usually, they are rare and generally mild. The most common symptom is a drop in blood pressure. This is often accompanied by: faintness; blurry vision; dizziness; feeling cold; and stomach cramps.
Plasmapheresis can also carry a risk of infection but most procedures involving transfer of blood into or out of the body carry a risk of infection. There is also a risk of blood clotting and your doctor may prescribe an anti-coagulant to help reduce your risk for blood clots. There can also be a risk of an allergic reaction and this is typically a reaction to the solutions used to replace plasma.
Plasmapheresis is an in-hospital procedure. In the US, it’s not FDA approved for treating Lyme disease and so the expense is not reimbursed. Some clinics recommend plasmapheresis for Lyme disease patients, particularly other autoimmune conditions are suspected.
As with other non-standard therapies, reports are highly mixed as to the success of the treatment. There have been reports where the process did not seem to be useful against ongoing infection.
But many people feel plasmapheresis gives the body a jump start on removing all of the toxins from the body. When people have Lyme disease they have a great deal of toxins in their bodies. If they have treatments such as Hyperthermia, many toxins are released from cells all over their body – in the blood, but also in cells in muscle tissue and organs. These toxins are released into the blood stream but for people who have been very sick, the amount of toxins in the blood is more than the body can reasonably handle.
So plasmapheresis is performed to remove the toxins already in the blood – toxins that were there before the hyperthermia treatment, and toxins that were released into the blood as a result of the treatments received.
St Georg Klinik and Sanoviv offer this treatment
The St Georg Klinik in Germany and the Sanoviv Medical Institute in Mexico, both offer plasmapheresis to patients. St Georg recently introduced the treatment, stating it is a procedure which can help ‘detoxify’ the body and ‘decrease the microbial load.’
St Georg refers to the treatment as ‘therapeutic apheresis’ and they say it “… allows for a significant decrease in toxic congestion, making it an extremely useful treatment for individuals with chronic Lyme disease.”